How Moss mastered Monaco to beat the Ferraris in ’61

It’s one of the greatest drives in Formula 1 history, how Stirling Moss drove an underpowered, privateer Lotus to victory over the might of the works Ferrari in the 1961 Monaco Grand Prix.

Listen to this article

Some years ago, for a piece in Autosport magazine, I asked him what it had been like to drive a racing car around the streets of Monte Carlo at the time.

He replied: “You could tell who was fast around Monaco – he’d bring his car back with white sidewalls. They used to paint the kerbs, you see, and if you brushed against them, you’d get white sidewalls! Then you’d think: ‘Christ, he must have been moving on!’

“The cars were narrower than they are today, but the kerbs were what you had to be wary of, because they were much higher than they are now. If you hit one hard, that was it. Actually, come to think of it, the wheels of a Lotus could fall off without touching one!”

Read Also:

As well as being incredibly funny company, Moss was always very honest about his driving, and his explanation of how he kept his concentration for a race that lasted two hours and 46 minutes was fascinating...

“I started from pole and I had the two Ferraris behind, and I remember thinking: ‘I’ve got to do the perfect lap from here.’ You can’t do a perfect lap at Monaco, well I didn’t manage one.

“It wouldn’t be quite right coming through the left-right, okay, try and do it from here, ang go again – this went on for almost three hours! It was quite a strain.”

Richie Ginther, Ferrari, Jim Clark, Lotus 21, Stirling Moss, Lotus 18

Richie Ginther, Ferrari, Jim Clark, Lotus 21, Stirling Moss, Lotus 18

Photo by: David Phipps

Stirling Moss, Cooper-Climax

Stirling Moss, Cooper-Climax

Photo by: Motorsport Images

It was the first World Championship race for the 1.5-litre regulations, and Moss’s Rob Walker-run Climax-powered Lotus 18 was giving away probably 40bhp at a time when they only had 200 or so.

“They were only three or four seconds behind all the time,” recalled Moss of the Ferraris. “I thought they were just playing with me. They were just sitting there: first Phil Hill, then Richie Ginther.

“I thought, ‘Well those buggers are just playing around, on the last lap they’re going to roar past me.’ They didn’t, so that was it!”

Moss ranks this win as the finest of a glittering career, and one that highlighted his mental powers and his race management perhaps like no other.

“Concentration is the required commodity for Monaco, and leading a race is so much more difficult than following,” he said. “That’s why I class ’61 as my best race. I got around that by focusing on trying to gain half a length here or there, and at the hairpin I was able to gauge if I’d lost time or gained it, so I was continually looking across as I turned in.”

Stirling Moss, Lotus

Stirling Moss, Lotus

Photo by: Sutton Images

shares
comments

The 'new' F1 drivers who need to improve at Imola

Why Sir Stirling Moss was ‘Mr. Motor Racing’

The pioneering F1 car that preceded Lotus’s terminal decline

The pioneering F1 car that preceded Lotus’s terminal decline

Prime
Prime
Formula 1
GP Racing

Throwback: The 1987 Lotus 99T The pioneering F1 car that preceded Lotus’s terminal decline

How Tyrrell became a racing Rubik’s cube as it faded out of F1

How Tyrrell became a racing Rubik’s cube as it faded out of F1

Prime
Prime
Formula 1
GP Racing

The story of Ken Tyrrell's team How Tyrrell became a racing Rubik’s cube as it faded out of F1

Assessing Hamilton's remarkable decade as a Mercedes F1 driver

Assessing Hamilton's remarkable decade as a Mercedes F1 driver

Prime
Prime
Formula 1
Alex Kalinuackas

Assessing Hamilton's Mercedes stint Assessing Hamilton's remarkable decade as a Mercedes F1 driver

Why new-look Haas is a litmus test for Formula 1’s new era

Why new-look Haas is a litmus test for Formula 1’s new era

Prime
Prime
Formula 1
Jonathan Noble

Why new-look Haas is a litmus test Why new-look Haas is a litmus test for Formula 1’s new era

The Mercedes F1 pressure changes under 10 years of Toto Wolff

The Mercedes F1 pressure changes under 10 years of Toto Wolff

Prime
Prime
Formula 1
Alex Kalinauckas

Assessing Wolff's Mercedes influence The Mercedes F1 pressure changes under 10 years of Toto Wolff

The all-French F1 partnership that Ocon and Gasly hope to emulate

The all-French F1 partnership that Ocon and Gasly hope to emulate

Prime
Prime
Formula 1
GP Racing

The line-up Ocon, Gasly may emulate The all-French F1 partnership that Ocon and Gasly hope to emulate

Who were the fastest drivers in F1 2022?

Who were the fastest drivers in F1 2022?

Prime
Prime
Formula 1
GP Racing

Who were the fastest F1 drivers? Who were the fastest drivers in F1 2022?

Nico Hulkenberg: Why F1's nearly man is refreshed and ready for his return

Nico Hulkenberg: Why F1's nearly man is refreshed and ready for his return

Prime
Prime
Formula 1
Adam Cooper

Why Hulkenberg is ready for return Nico Hulkenberg: Why F1's nearly man is refreshed and ready for his return