After spending days – literally days – trawling through the Badger archives (housed in a labyrinth-like vault beneath the sett) we’ve put together a collection of classic happenings from the famed street circuit. May we present to you Badger’s Monte Carlo Classics.
When talking Monaco the driver whose name is spoken first should always be Ayrton Senna. The great Brazilian won six times in Monte Carlo, including an incredible five in a row between 1989 and 1993.
Senna’s first trip to the principality was a classic. Starting 13th he drove an unfancied Toleman-Hart brilliantly in pouring rain to run second to Alain Prost with 31 laps complete – and Senna was catching. Then ex-F1 driver Jackie Ickx – who was that day acting as clerk of the course – controversially stopped the race, handing Prost the win. The Frenchman had been desperate to get proceedings halted, but it would eventually come back to haunt him: he only scored half points, ultimately costing him the title.
Senna took his first Monaco win in 1987, driving a Lotus. A year on he was in a mega quick McLaren, but crashed out of the race whilst leading from fierce rival Prost. Distraught, Senna locked himself in his hotel room, and it would seem he vowed never to make a mistake at Monaco again: in the remaining six years of his life he won every race at the principality. Badger doffs a cap to F1’s greatest street fighter. Check out the video below, showing the master at work in 1986.
Senna aside Michael Schumacher and Graham Hill are the other two standout Monaco drivers, both having won five races. We kick off with Hill, who claimed three in a row between 1963 and ’65, adding further wins in ’68 and ’69.
His finest triumph? Hill called Monaco ‘65 “one of the best races I have ever won.” Having built a lead he was caught out by a backmarker and went straight on up an escape road. He had to climb out of the car, push it back on to the track and get going again, dropping him to fifth. But Hill was a true Monaco master. First he passed teammate Jackie Stewart and soon caught the battling Ferraris of Surtees and Bandini. With leader Jack Brabham retiring this was now a three-way battle for the lead, and at half distance Hill passed Surtees for second. After a real scrap Hill took Bandini for the lead at Mirabeau, going on to win by over a minute.
“To win the race after having had to push the car back on to the track and then push-start it was quite something”, Hill said afterwards. We won’t be seeing that happen again this year!
On to Schumacher, whose greatest Monaco victory was probably 1997 when, in pouring rain, he decimated the competition to win by nearly a minute. Rubens Barichello took second for Stewart, a fantastic achievement for the team in only their fifth grand prix.
But the streets of Monte Carlo were also the scene for one of Schumacher’s most controversial – and let’s be honest, downright dirty – moments in F1. During qualifying for the 2006 race Michael slowed and stopped at La Rascasse, having apparently made a mistake. Conveniently for the German, who was quickest at the time, this stopped anyone beating him to pole, though he would later be sent to the back of the grid for his actions. A great driver? Yes. A great sportsman? Uh, maybe not.
Fittingly, it was one of F1’s greatest ever drivers who won the first Monaco Grand Prix to run under the Formula One banner (the race itself has existed since 1929). Yes, Argentine legend Juan Manuel Fangio took victory in 1950 in a race that saw a start crash put nine cars out of the race. Fangio added a second win in 1957, taking the lead following a shunt that eliminated leader Stirling Moss from the race. Not that Sir Stirling hasn’t had his share of success at Monaco: he’s the proud owner of three winners trophies, as is fellow Knight of the realm Sir Jackie Stewart. The first came in 1966 race, a race that also saw the debut of a new team in F1: McLaren.
If you’re only going to win one race you may as well make it Monaco, right? It’s been done. Oliver Panis took an unlikely win for Ligier in 1996 – in a race that only three cars finished – whilst fellow Frenchman Jean-Pierre Beltoise also took his sole F1 triumph at a wet Monaco in 1972. Yet another Frenchman, Maurice Trintignant, went one step further: he took two career F1 wins, both of them at Monaco, in 1955 and ’58. Jarno Trulli took his only win to date at the principality in 2003, and with his move down the grid to Lotus looks likely to join the Monaco-only winners club. Honestly though, it’s not a bad club.
Alongside its success stories the tight, twisty nature of the Monaco track has naturally produced plenty of losers down the years too. As well as Senna’s infamous mistake in 1988 there have been several other notable Monaco crashes.
In 1955 Alberto Ascari crashed out of the race and in to the harbour. Amazingly the Italian was able to escape his car and resurface unharmed. But, in a cruel twist of fate, Ascari was killed in a testing crash less than a week later.
James Hunt took street fighting a bit too literally in 1975. He exited the race after a collision with Patrick Depallier and almost had a scuffle with one of the marshals who came to the aid of his stricken Hesketh car.
Another Brit, Martin Brundle, had a huge crash in qualifying in 1984, but was able to return to the pits and jump in the spare car. He was all set to go out and try for a better lap, but had a question for boss Ken Tyrrell before he did so: “which way do I turn when I leave the pits?” Brundle didn’t even know what circuit he was at and the team quickly switched off his engine.
In 1985 Nelson Piquet and Ricardo Patrese had a spectacular coming together in to Saint Devote when the Brazilian tried to pass but was squeezed by Patrese. Two years later a huge crash occurred in practice, as Ferrari’s Michele Alboreto tried to pass a slowing Christian Danner through the Beau Rivage corner. The gap was too tight, Danner clipped Alboreto’s rear wheel and sent the Italian in to the barriers. The Ferrari exploded in to a spectacular fireball, but luckily Alboreto escaped unharmed, and even managed third place in the race. No such luck for Danner though: he was excluded from the rest of the event.
There have been plenty of big ones in the recent past too. In 2003 Jenson Button crashed exiting the tunnel, flying straight in to the barriers at the chicane at almost full speed. The Briton missed the grand prix with concussion. Alex Wurz had a similar accident in a Benetton in 1998.
In 2004 Takuma Sato’s engine blew and Giancarlo Fisichella’s Sauber rolled in to the barriers in the ensuing chaos. A year later Ralf Schumacher clipped the inside wall at Tabac during qualifying and slammed in to the guardrail on the other side of the track. Ouch.
We think you’ll all agree that Monaco is a classic; a relic of F1’s past that still manages to captivate and thrill racing fans across the globe. It’s an iconic event, one that people who’ve never watched a grand prix know all about, and a tremendous challenge for both the teams and drivers. That’s Badger’s look at some – and it is just some – of the classics from Monaco’s past complete. Whilst you’re in the Monaco mood, why not check out this week’s Badgerometer, which tackles the difficult issue of the top five races in the principality.