Archive: Monaco's magic F1 moments as told by the stars
Formula 1 returns to its jewel in the crown this weekend after a year's enforced absence. Arguably the most famous race of them all is steeped in history and has produced plenty of remarkable moments down the years, as some of its key players revealed to Motorsport.com's sister title Autosport for the 22 May 2008 magazine issue.
Monaco: probably the most famous motor racing venue in the world. The streets of the principality, tucked away in a costal harbour on the Cote d'Azur, have been turned into a racetrack since 1929. The circuit has had a nip here and a tuck there, but ostensibly poses the same challenge as ever.
To be quick there, you have to be good. To win, you must be a star. Being synonymous with Monaco, like Graham Hill or Ayrton Senna, is perhaps the greatest honour among racers.
Its sinuous turns might not provide great racing, but that's to ignore the challenge and the mystique. Much has been written about Monaco, but unearthing its untold stories has not been the work of a moment. With the help of some of the race's most famous participants and winners, here are some of Monte Carlo's magic moments - in their own words...
Alain Prost, McLaren MP4/2C
Photo by: Sutton Images
1986 - Alain Prost: 'The Professor' transcends his limits
"1986 was my favourite race at Monaco because I was able to dominate. We were in front for the whole weekend, and I felt unbelievable. You only feel like this maybe four or five times in your entire career. You're not 100% in control of the car when you have this kind of feeling.
"Going to Monaco was always very special. When you go out in the car for the first laps of the weekend, you always said to yourself, 'Woah - shit!' It is a really daunting place.
"Monaco is so special that you have a different attitude, and you find that the top drivers are more successful - they may find an extra motivation. Monaco is at the top, I think, for all drivers. Maybe only one or two don't like it.
"From all the people I had to fight with, Ayrton [Senna] was the best there. Michael [Schumacher] was the best afterwards, so it's difficult to say. The strength of Ayrton was his speed in qualifying. He was not very, very fast in the races but he was so quick in qualifying over one lap, so at Monaco that was always a big advantage.
"Sometimes I would not be surprised by his time in qualifying, because I was concentrating on my race set-up and I was right on many occasions... But sometimes, yes, he would surprise me."
Keke Rosberg, Williams FW08C leads Alain Prost
Photo by: Sutton Images
1983 - Keke Rosberg: Blistering pace but no sympathy from team
"I had a big vibration on the front wheels, I don't know why - maybe I had lost a wheel weight. I had blistered my hands really badly. I'd gone through two layers of skin and was really hurting.
"My teammate Jacques Laffite was in second behind me, so I suggested on the radio that Williams should slow him down so I didn't have to drive like a madman because of my hands.
"But the team said, 'No, you must keep pushing.' Nelson Piquet was pushing Jacques like crazy so they couldn't slow him down.
"After the race, I was really furious with the team, because I felt they hadn't supported me. Patrick Head was next to me in the paddock afterwards when I said to somebody, 'I had to do it all by myself and the team wouldn't help me'.
"Patrick still takes the mickey today!"
Stirling Moss, Lotus 18
Photo by: Motorsport Images
1961 - Stirling Moss: Quest for 'the perfect lap' kept Ferrari at bay
"You could tell who was fast around Monaco - he'd bring his car back with white sidewalls. They used to paint the kerbs and if you brushed them, you'd get white sidewalls! Then you'd think, 'Christ, he must have been moving on!'
"You couldn't do a perfect lap at Monaco. Well, I didn't manage one. In 1961, I started from pole with the two Ferraris behind, and I thought, 'I've got to do the perfect lap from here' - but it wouldn't be quite right coming through the left-right. 'OK, try to do it from here'. This went on for almost three hours! It was quite a strain.
"They were only three or four seconds behind the whole time. I thought, 'Those buggers are just playing around, on the last lap they're going to roar past me.' They didn't, so that was that!
"The cars were narrower than they are today, but the kerbs were much higher then. If you hit one hard, that was it. In fact, the wheels of a Lotus could fall off without touching one!
"Concentration is what's required for Monaco, and leading is much more difficult than following. That's why I class '61 as my best race. I focused on trying to gain half a length here or there and at the hairpin I was able to gauge if I'd lost or gained time, so I continually looked across as I turned in."
Martin Brundle, Brabham BT58 Judd
Photo by: Motorsport Images
1989 - Martin Brundle: Even Bernie doesn't know about the sneaky DVD memento in F1 commentator's collection...
"The Brabham-Judd was always very quick in slow and medium corners, but had a massive power deficit, so it was good around Monaco. And the Pirellis were always good on a dusty track. We had to pre-qualify, but I got through and stuck it on the second row of the grid.
"I was slow off the grid, because I'd been very careful with it on the warm-up lap, I didn't even spin the wheels in fear of breaking a driveshaft. I passed [Nigel] Mansell for third, and was running comfortably half a lap ahead of [Stefano] Modena, my teammate. The car was just awesome and I could see Prost and Senna ahead of me.
"We'd replaced every component on the car before the race, including a new battery, which failed. It happened quite early in the lap, so I had to chug back to the pits. Unfortunately, it was under my seat, so I had to hop out while it was changed and then get back in. I had nothing to lose, so I just stormed back.
"I've got it all on DVD at home. I got hold of Bernie's [Ecclestone] on-board footage - I'm sure I shouldn't have it, but I was given it as a present by someone who said, 'You might enjoy watching this.'
"Modena finished third, but I was miles quicker than him - only Prost set a faster lap in the race. It breaks my heart to think about it. It was one of those 'if only' days. You think, 'If I drove like that every weekend I'd be a world champion.'"
Emerson Fittipaldi, Fittipaldi FD04 Ford, 1976 Monaco GP, F1
Photo by: Ercole Colombo/Studio Colombo/Motorsport Images
1976 - Emerson Fittipaldi: Never a winner, but always a thriller
"I never won at Monaco but it's the most enjoyable track to drive after the Nurburgring Nordschleife. I started from pole in '72. It was raining, but I lost out at the start because I spun the wheels. Clay [Regazzoni] passed me and then he missed the chicane, and I missed it too in all the spray and dropped back to eighth or ninth. It was incredibly slippy - there was zero grip, but I still finished third.
"A year later in '73, I spent the last 10 laps chasing Jackie [Stewart] in the Tyrrell. I was much faster than him, but he made that car very wide! And in '75 it was the same situation with Niki [Lauda] where he won and I was second again. I was right on his gearbox - it was a lot of fun.
"My best qualifying in Monaco was in the Copersucar. Nobody knows this except me, because I was driving! It was '76 and we were on the bubble to make the race. I asked [designer] Richard Divila, 'How strong is the suspension? Can I go over the kerbs?' He said it should last for two laps.
"I went out and put two wheels over the kerbs everywhere. I improved by something like a second and a half and I qualified sixth or seventh. That was the biggest lap of my life in Monaco! From the outside nobody knows this. I was flying over the kerbs, through the chicane... and it lasted."
John Watson, Brabham BT46
Photo by: Sutton Images
1978 - John Watson: Where are my tyres Bernie?
"I was on pole for Brabham in Monaco in '77, and although the Alfa engine was powerful and very flexible, the downside was we had to carry more fuel than the DFV-powered opposition.
"A year later I was second quickest to Carlos Reutemann's Ferrari with about five minutes to go, so I came in for my last set of qualifying tyres. I looked at my engineer, and he said, 'What do you want?' I said, 'I'd like my last set of qualifiers please.' He said, 'Ah, erm, ah... Niki [teammate Lauda] got them.' So the seatbelts exploded as I launched myself out of the cockpit - I was very pissed off!
"'Why did that little **** get my tyres,' I yelled. The reason was Niki came in after using all four sets and said to Bernie [Ecclestone, then Brabham owner], 'I got held up, give me more tyres and I'll do a pole lap.' Bernie saw my tyres sitting there and made the awkward decision to put my tyres on Niki's car. Bernie always did have a very lateral way of thinking...
"So Niki got five sets of qualifiers, and I got three. He still only managed the second row, but I was on the front row!"
Niki Lauda, Brabham BT46 Alfa Romeo, 1978 Monaco GP, F1
Photo by: David Philipps/Sutton Images/Motorsport Images
1978 - Niki Lauda: Forget about the qualifying mindgames, 'The Rat' starred when it came to raceday
"I had to come into the pits because I had a puncture. I dropped to last but eventually fought back to finish second, driving quicker in the race than my qualifying time. I had caught up with leader Patrick Depailler by the end, so if the race had ben two more laps I would have won.
"1978 was my personal best race there - even though I won two Monaco GPs.
"I drove in a completely crazy way that year, hit the guardrails and didn't care if I kept it running or not!"
Race winner Olivier Panis, Ligier JS43
Photo by: Motorsport Images
1996 - Olivier Panis: How underdog victory almost didn’t happen
“The whole weekend was a bit strange. I was quick in free practice, but I had an electronic problem in qualifying and was 14th on the grid. On Sunday morning it was raining and I said to my wife, ‘I will finish on the podium.’ I felt something good was going to happen.
“I overtook seven cars in the wet and, after my pitstops, I made some more places. Everything I tried was a bit of a risk – when I passed [Eddie] Irvine I touched him and I thought I’d destroyed the front wing, but it was okay and I knew it was my day! Damon Hill then blew his engine, and Jean [Alesi] hit the barrier while leading… so now I was!
“Then, in the final six laps, my engineer called me and said, ‘You need to stop, you are not fuelled enough.’ I said, ‘What? No way!’ I continued and tried to save fuel. They were coming over the radio in English, Italian and French, everyone trying to get me in – even Flavio [Briatore] who was team boss at the time.
“I carried on saving fuel, even though I had DC very close behind me, and made the finish. I stopped the car on the finish line for the podium and we tried to restart the car afterwards – it never did, it was totally empty. When you are lucky, everything is possible!
“It was fantastic for me and for the team because it meant they could sell the team for more. Alain Prost tells me I am the driver who cost him the most!”
Riccardo Patrese, Brabham BT49D
Photo by: Sutton Images
1982 - Riccardo Patrese: “Patrese’s on the move again… but has no chance of catching Pironi… is that Pironi stationary? It is!”
“It was a strange race, but I started from the first row and was just four or five seconds behind [Alain] Prost’s Renault [when he crashed out of the lead], so it’s not as if I came from nowhere to win that grand prix. But to win it after what happened in the last three laps was really incredible.
“I spun, but I discovered 20 years later in an interview with Derek Daly, in Autosport or Motorsport magazine, that I spun on the oil that he had lost at the Loews hairpin. Because it was a bit damp, I could not see it. I couldn’t understand why I had spun!
“I thought that the grand prix was over and I had no idea when I came to the finishing line that the cars in front of me had all stopped on the last lap. I stopped in front of the podium and they told me to stay there. In those days only the winner went to the podium while the rest were sent back into the pitlane.
“Suddenly, I realised that it was only me still sitting out on the track in my car and I was saying, ‘What am I doing here? I don’t understand.’ In the end someone came over to me and said, ‘You are the winner,’ which I couldn’t believe.
“Finally I got to the podium and there was a fantastic feeling – a dramatic change from how I had felt a few moments before.”
Mika Salo, Tyrrell 025 Ford
Photo by: Ercole Colombo
1997 - Mike Gascoyne: How Tyrrell team ‘fuelled’ its rivals
“At Tyrrell that year, I knew we had to be clever to get points. When I suggested we try to get to the finish without refuelling, everyone thought I was mad.
“We told Mika Salo what to do and he duly went to minus-10 per cent lean, but did half a lap and switched it back to zero. We wondered why…
“Then he went to minus-two for a lap, minus-four for a lap, minus-six for a lap, minus-eight for a lap and then minus-10. Afterwards he told us he’d had to get used to how to drive because the Ford V8 we were using at the time was totally undriveable when it was leaned out.
“Our calculations showed us that we were within half a lap of getting there, but just before half distance we spotted that Mika’s front wing flap had come off. We thought he had hit something so we rushed out into the pitlane to do a nose change – at exactly the same time the others were coming into the pits.
“Mika had actually hit someone on the first lap so was not in trouble, but the pitstop fooled our main rivals. Giancarlo Fisichella’s Jordan was behind us and his team told him not to worry as they thought we were about to stop, as our crew had been out in the pitlane.
“We were up to fifth and things looked tight on making it to the finish.
“We did it though. Later we found there was a massive fuel meter error. We had another three laps of fuel in the car – but it could’ve gone either way.”
Race winner Jarno Trulli, Renault F1 Team
Photo by: Sutton Images
2004 - Jarno Trulli: Erring on the side of caution was key to Italian’s maiden GP victory
“That race was between me and Fernando [Alonso] – the whole race. At one stage I had up to 10 or 12 seconds gap on Fernando, which suddenly in three or four laps came down to three because Fernando took a gamble through the backmarkers.
“I was a little bit careful in Monaco, because you know very well you have to be cautious. And Fernando just wasn’t and he ended up in the wall [after clashing with Ralf Schumacher]. Who was to blame? I didn’t know and I didn’t care – but I didn’t want to take the gamble and I think it paid off.
“I did my race, I did what I was supposed to do: I won in style. I won a race which I think I had to win because I had the machinery to win it. And what happened afterwards [Trulli was sacked later in the season]… I don’t even want to talk about.”
Jarno Trulli, Renault R24, Jenson Button, BAR Honda 006 and Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari F2004 celebrate on the podium, 2004 Monaco GP, F1
Photo by: Steven Tee/LAT Images
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