Ask any driver, they’ll tell you that the Circuit de Monaco is one of the most difficult to master.
Plenty of drivers have come and gone who’ve had a knack for getting good results at the demanding street track – the original ‘Mr Monaco’ Graham Hill, Jody Scheckter, Ayrton Senna and, more recently, Nico Rosberg. And there are a few who got it notably wrong, too.
But there are also drivers who’ve performed consistently well at the track without ever winning, who’ve put in stellar performances but have never quite taken the limelight. Nicky Haldenby takes a look at Monaco’s Nearly-Men.
Rubens Barrichello – Five podiums, no wins
Rubens Barrichello is the most successful man at Monaco to have not won a Grand Prix around the demanding street circuit. The Brazilian driver finished on the podium an agonising five times, for three different teams, between 1997 and 2009 without standing on the top step.
His first Monte Carlo podium came in 1997 when he was driving for the Stewart-Ford team in a damp race around the twisting streets. He finished in the runner-up spot but was almost a full minute behind race winner Michael Schumacher.
Barrichello retired from the next two Monaco Grands Prix, before moving to Ferrari and returning to the runner-up spot for the next two seasons – 2000, where he finished fifteen seconds behind McLaren’s David Coulthard and 2001, where he finished less than half a second behind his then team-mate Schumacher.
A few mediocre years followed for Barrichello at Monaco before he finished third in 2004. After switching to Honda for 2006, he came close to a fifth Monte Carlo podium, chasing down David Coulthard’s third-placed Red Bull in the closing stages but finishing just over a second behind the Scotsman as they crossed the line.
It wouldn’t be until 2009 that Barrichello returned to the podium in the principality for a fifth and final time, as he finished runner-up once again to his team-mate, this time driving for Brawn GP.
Eddie Irvine and Gerhard Berger – Four podiums, no wins
Next up on the list of ‘most podiums without a win’ at Monaco are Eddie Irvine and Gerhard Berger, who both finished on the rostrum four times, but never on the top step.
Gerhard Berger made it to four podiums first, scoring top three finishes for Ferrari in 1988, 1994 and 1995, and also one for McLaren in 1990. His most famous finish would be second place in 1988 after leader Ayrton Senna threw his McLaren, and the race lead, away at Portier. The other three podium finishes were third-place finishes.
Eddie Irvine’s Monaco record shows four podium finishes in five years – he made three consecutive podium appearances with Ferrari in 1997, 1998 and 1999, before taking a final, and maiden for Jaguar, top three finish in the principality in 2001.
Jim Clark – Four poles, no wins
Overtaking is impossible at Monaco, so if you get pole position you’re guaranteed victory, right? Not so much the case for Jim Clark, who took pole on four occasions at the Monaco Grand Prix, yet never won the race – nor did he ever finish on the podium.
Clark took his first pole in Monaco, and his first in Formula One, at the 1962 meeting. His getaway was ruined due to a scrape with Ferrari’s Willy Mairesse, leaving him down in sixth place, yet a valiant fightback from the Scotsman soon commenced.
Clark passed Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren in quick succession and set about chasing down race leader Graham Hill. He got to within a second of Hill by Lap 45, before lapped cars made his progress more difficult and the Englishman upped his pace. Disappointingly, Clark eventually retired from the race with clutch issues.
Clark set the fastest time once again the following season, this time by seven-tenths of a second, but was unable to turn the pole into a win. It was a similar story to the previous year, as he was pushed down to third on the first lap due to the fast-starting BRM machines.
Clark chased down Hill for the lead once again and this time made it by after a fierce on-track battle. The Scotsman had built up a sixteen second lead by Lap 78, at which point his Lotus spun at the hairpin due to a faulty gearbox. He spun out of the race while Hill flashed by to take the first of his five Monaco Grand Prix victories.
The Scotsman’s best result at the Circuit de Monaco was fourth, from pole, in 1964, which turned out to be the final time he saw the chequered flag in the principality.
He qualified on pole for a final time in 1966 but once again retired from the Grand Prix with forty laps to go due to suspension failure.
Jean Alesi – Three podiums, no wins
Frenchman Jean Alesi is usually regarded as one of the unluckiest men in F1. He had much potential, but only scored one Grand Prix victory during his thirteen seasons in the sport. Alesi took three podium finishes in The Principality in four years in 1990, 1991 and 1993.
But it’s 1996 which was the most heartbreaking result for him. A damp afternoon had seen plenty of drama with the field depleted to just nine cars running with eighteen laps to go.
Alesi was leading and on course for his second F1 victory until his Benetton’s suspension failed, and the Frenchman pulled into the pits at the end of the sixtieth lap. The unforgettable race went on to be won by his fellow countryman Olivier Panis.
Nigel Mansell – Two poles, two podiums, no wins
Nigel Mansell has led the most laps around Monaco of any driver who has never won the race. He took pole twice, in 1987 and 1992.
In the 1987 event, Mansell led for the first thirty laps before a turbo issue put him out of the race. It started a spell of bad luck for Mansell at the track – he would retire from the Monaco Grand Prix for the next three seasons. A crash with Michele Alboreto took him out in 1988 when he was running in fourth, gearbox issues saw him exit the race on lap 20 in 1989, while in 1990 an early scrape with sixth-placed Thierry Boutsen saw him needing a new front wing. Mansell charged back through the field to fourth but it amounted to nothing when his Ferrari’s battery failed just fourteen laps from home.
It wasn’t until 1991 that he finished on the podium for the first time in the principality. Mansell qualified fifth and steadily made his way up to third. Sitting behind Frenchman Alain Prost, Mansell made a bold move at the exit of the tunnel to finish runner-up to Ayrton Senna.
The 1992 race is one of the most memorable Monaco races – and it’s largely thanks to Mansell and Senna. The Englishman started from pole and built up a lead of thirty seconds. He then pitted, feeling he had a puncture. Senna took the lead as Mansell emerged from the pits seven seconds behind the Brazilian. Soon enough, Mansell was right on Senna’s gearbox, leading to an epic duel in the final three laps. No matter which way he tried to get by, Mansell couldn’t usurp Senna from the lead, and the Brazilian took a fourth consecutive victory in Monte Carlo, while Mansell had to settle for the runner-up slot for a second year in succession.
That was the final time Mansell would race around Monaco, racking up 104 laps led around the principality but with no wins on the table.
Lorenzo Bandini – Three podiums, no wins
There are a handful of drivers who’ve taken three podiums at the track without winning: Phil Hill, Richie Ginther and Michele Alboreto. No driver’s story at Monaco is as tragic as Lorenzo Bandini’s, however.
He finished on the podium on his first attempt at Monaco, driving for Ferrari in 1962. Despite his good result, Bandini was dropped from the Ferrari team for the following season but returned as a number two driver to John Surtees in 1964. He retired from the Monaco race in 1964 with gearbox troubles but, in 1965 and 1966, he finished in the runner-up spot for two consecutive seasons.
In 1967, Bandini was again running in second place, chasing down eventual 1967 World Champion Denny Hulme for the victory, having closed the gap from fifteen seconds to just seven. Disaster, however, struck on the lap 82.
The chicane after the tunnel was a ferociously fast part of the track back in the sixties and required absolute precision. Bandini, who by this point was fatigued, went in too fast, clipped the chicane and hit a small unsighted pole, which flipped the car. The Ferrari subsequently erupted into flames. Bandini was trapped in the car and suffered severe burns, perishing from his injuries three days later.
His death impacted safety in the sport and at the circuit. The guard rails around the Monte Carlo streets were reworked for the following year and the race was shortened, while straw bales were banned from being used at all future Formula One Grand Prix. Work also progressed on fire-retardant clothing for drivers, which has become an unquestioned norm in modern day motorsport.
Daniel Ricciardo – One pole, three podiums, no wins
On the current grid, it’s Daniel Ricciardo who has had the most success in Monte Carlo without standing on the top step on a Sunday afternoon.
His record is matched by some imperious company – World Champions Emerson Fittipaldi and Nelson Piquet had similar levels of success in Monaco. Fittipaldi took pole in 1972 and finished in the top three in 1972, 1973 and 1975. Meanwhile, Piquet set the fastest Saturday time in 1981 and scored podium finishes in 1980, 1983 and 1987.
Ricciardo retired from both of his first two Monaco Grands Prix with Toro Rosso, but has finished within the top five at all of his races in Monte Carlo with Red Bull so far.
In 2014, the Australian finished in third place and for the past two seasons, in 2016 and 2017, Ricciardo, who is a resident of Monaco, has tasted champagne at the end of the race.
It is 2016 which epitomises the ‘nearly-man’ of Monaco. Ricciardo took his first, and so far only, pole position in Formula One on Saturday and led comfortably from Lewis Hamilton for the first 31 laps of the race.
He then pitted, switching to slick tyres on a drying track – only Red Bull, and the tyres, weren’t ready for him.
The slow stop allowed Hamilton to easily take the lead. The Australian didn’t give up and challenged the Brit’s position several times, but the tight streets and Hamilton’s defensive moves allowed no way past. Hamilton inherited the win, leaving Ricciardo looking unusually solemn on the podium.