The Greatest Ever Monaco Grands Prix
"Driving around this track is like riding a bike around a living room", said Nelson Piquet.
COVID-19 meant that the world's most advanced 'bikes' were unable to traverse the world's most expensive 'living room' last year, but this week finally sees the return of the Monaco Grand Prix.
The 2021 season has thus far served up four highly entertaining battles between seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and the heir to this throne, Max Verstappen. Whilst races at Monaco can often be a somewhat mundane affair - more rush hour than Rush - when they are good, they tend to be very good.
Here are the best of the 77 grands prix to this point. Let's hope that number 78 will be able to compete with them.
The cars were far smaller and the track far larger back in 1965. (Photo: The Guardian.)
Graham Hill completed a hat-trick of victories in Monte Carlo and cemented his position as 'Mr. Monaco' after a stunning comeback drive in 1965.
After having secured pole position and then opened up a comfortable lead, Hill spun whilst trying to overtake backmarker Bob Anderson on lap 25 and found himself down an escape road. At a time when reverse gear wasn't available in F1 cars, the Briton was forced to climb out and push his car back onto the track.
Over the following 40 laps, Hill steadily but surely clawed back the 30-second deficit to the leaders and then picked them off one by one. He withstood a late charge from reigning champion John Surtees to take the chequered flag and earn the third of his five victories in Monaco.
Jochen Rindt in the slightly safer Lotus 49 at the 1970 Monaco Grand Prix. (Photo: Getty Images.)
Jochen Rindt and Colin Chapman had many a disagreement regarding the safety of the Lotus cars and, after a huge accident in Spain, Rindt refused to use the latest Lotus 72 at the 1970 Monaco Grand Prix.
Despite that, the Austrian made steady progress through the field from eighth on the grid - aided by numerous retirements in front of him - and found himself in second place with 19 laps remaining. Jack Brabham's appeared to have a comfortable 15-second lead but it gradually decreased and, after being held up twice by backmarkers, it was down to four seconds on the penultimate lap.
Rindt blitzed the lap record and was suddenly within touching distance. Under pressure at the final hairpin, Brabham went off-line to lap Piers Courage and slithered off into the barrier, leaving Rindt to inherit his sole Monaco triumph and the last ever victory for the famous Lotus 49.
The field of 1982 climb the hill towards Massenet. (Photo: www.extendedcommerce.eu.)
The 1982 Monaco Grand Prix was a race which, it appeared, nobody wanted to win.
Alain Prost appeared favourite after his pole-sitting team-mate, René Arnoux, had spun on lap 15. But with three laps remaining and rain starting to fall, Prost himself spun out and handed the lead to Riccardo Patrese, only for the Italian to spin as well during the following lap. That left Didier Pironi in the lead, but his car ran out of fuel on the final lap. Andrea de Cesaris would have inherited the lead but had also run out of fuel and Derek Daly – the next man down the road – had just retired with a gearbox failure.
As James Hunt put it, “we've got this ridiculous situation where we're all sitting by the start-finish line waiting for a winner to come past, and we don't seem to be getting one". Patrese had managed to restart his car, though, and eventually came through to take his maiden victory.
A first look at the wet-weather skills of Ayrton Senna. (Photo: jalopnik.com.)
Two years later, another wet race saw Ayrton Senna announce himself as a superstar in the making.
At the request of Niki Lauda, Bernie Ecclestone used his power to have the tunnel flooded, as oil from prior use had "turned it into a fifth gear skid pad" when the cars came racing in carrying the spray from their tyres. Pole-sitter Alain Prost was passed on lap nine by Nigel Mansell, to lead a grand prix for the first time, but the Briton crashed six laps later after sliding on a painted white line.
Prost reassumed the lead and, on lap 29, began waving to the stewards to signal the race should be stopped, with Senna - who had started the race 13th in an uncompetitive Toleman - closing in rapidly. The red flag was duly shown at the end of lap 32. Senna passed Prost's slowing McLaren before the finish line but, as per the rules, the positions were counted from the last lap completed by every driver and Prost retained the victory. Nonetheless, Senna had emphatically displayed the wet weather skills that would become infamous over the next decade.
Senna makes his MP4/7A the widest car in Monaco. (Photo: www.f1fanatic.co.uk.)
1992 saw another Senna Monaco masterclass; this time, though, in defensive driving.
That season's Williams was one of the most dominant in the history of the sport, Mansell taking the championship at a canter and winning a then-record 9 of 16 races. In Monaco, however, a late puncture in a race he had been dominating saw him emerge from the pits seven seconds behind Senna's McLaren.
That gap had disappeared in just a lap and a half. Senna was still sporting the same tyres on which he had started the race, but was not about to let his rival through in a hurry. Mansell darted left and right for the remaining five laps but to no avail as the Brazilian positioned his car perfectly and remained utterly resolute. The Master of Monaco was not to be denied that day and took his fourth consecutive victory in the Principality.
A pre-race downpour in 1996 saw a fraught start during which five drivers - including Michael Schumacher - retired from the race on the first lap. Another four had gone before lap 10.
Amid the chaos, a certain Olivier Panis had moved up from 14th on the grid to run eighth at the halfway point. With the rain clouds having moved on, the Frenchman instructed his Ligier team to monitor the first driver pitting for slicks and report on their progress. That would prove to be Damon Hill, whose instant speed convinced Panis to pit on the following lap.
Others weren't as quick to respond and Panis moved up to fourth. He quickly dispatched Eddie Irvine - into the wall, to be specific - and, when Hill and Jean Alesi suffered mechanical failures up ahead, found himself in the lead. A lack of fuel threatened the Frenchman's maiden victory, but he clung on from the chasing David Coulthard and was the first of just three drivers to reach the chequered flag. It would prove to be his only win. But, if you're only going to get one, it's not a bad one to have.
The chrome finish of a 2008 McLaren didn't look out of place in the Monaco harbour. (Photo: Corbis Images.)
Small mistakes have huge consequences in the tight confines of the Circuit de Monaco. Those consequences are almost always bad but, in 2008, a small mistake ultimately led to a victory for Lewis Hamilton.
Once again, rain played a major part in an eventful Monaco Grand Prix. Hamilton had passed Kimi Räikkönen for second place on the opening lap, but on lap 6, with the conditions worsening, he fractionally misjudged his exit from Tabac and tapped his right-rear wheel against the barrier, popping the tyre off the rim. That led Hamilton and his team to take a risk, fitting intermediate tyres and fuelling for a long second stint.
It proved to be inspired. The rain ceased, a dry line emerged, and Hamilton took the lead. When the time came for his next stop, conditions had reached the point for a transition to slicks and Hamilton maintained his lead to the chequered flag, despite a late safety car. Behind him, Adrian Sutil had been running in an unlikely, career-best fourth place, only to be taken out of the race by Räikkönen with just eight laps to go.
The rare sight of a miserable Daniel Ricciardo. (Photo: The Telegraph.)
2016 saw another wet race and another Hamilton win, but in very different circumstances.
Daniel Ricciardo led away from pole, followed by the Mercedes pair of Nico Rosberg and Hamilton. The two Silver Arrows were on best behaviour - after their infamous crash in Spain two weeks beforehand - and, after struggling with the conditions in the early laps, Rosberg obeyed a team order to allow his team-mate through.
Out front, Ricciardo had built a comfortable lead but, when the time came for his change to slicks, the Red Bull pit team weren't ready. Mechanics fumbled for the right tyres and Hamilton agonisingly swept by when Ricciardo eventually reached the end of the pit lane. Over the course of the remaining 45 laps, Hamilton produced a defensive display akin to Senna in 1992 as a frustrated Honey Badger bit at his heels.
It felt like redemption for Hamilton who had suffered a similar fate 12 months earlier when an erroneous call to pit lost him a certain victory. And Ricciardo himself would right the wrongs in 2018, claiming an impressive win after an engine issue left him down on power and defending for his life for most of the race.