“So, coming up, it’s Magical Monaco, which certainly lives up to its reputation as the jewel in Formula 1’s crown!”
With its glorious location, long racing history, unique round-the-houses circuit and glamorous image, the Monaco Grand Prix has created so many wonderful memories for me.
At one time, Monaco limited starters to 16, but in 1974, when I was commentating for BBC Radio, 25 hopefuls took the start. Halfway up the hill to Casino Square, Denny Hulme’s McLaren hit a barrier and, in the ensuing mayhem, seven were out immediately and, by lap seven, so were another four. With no TV screens and the radio lines cut, was I confused? Yes, I certainly was!
Twenty years later in 1994, at the first F1 event following the tragic deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna at Imola, there was a minute’s silence on the grid to honour their memories. Ayrton had dominated Monaco since his phenomenal first drive there in 1984. He entered ten races there and it was my privilege to commentate on every one of them.
Six times he won here, but two of his races at Monte Carlo particularly stand out for me. In 1984, his performance was, for a newcomer, astounding. He came close to winning in
“In 1992 Senna’s resistance to Mansell, in a faster Williams on new rubber, gave him his fifth win. He was the Master of Monaco”
appalling conditions and in an inferior car. Then, in 1992, his resistance in the latter stages to a recovering Nigel Mansell, in a faster Williams on new rubber, gave him his fifth victory. He was truly the Master of Monaco.
In 1980, Irishman Derek Daly slammed his Tyrrell into the back of Bruno Giacomelli’s Alfa Romeo in Monaco. He flew through the air and landed on top of team-mate Jean-Pierre Jarier’s car. Ken Tyrrell’s sponsors at the time were the Candy white-goods company and they had been complaining to Ken about the lack of publicity they were getting from their considerable expenditure. So when spectacular pictures of the two Candy-branded Tyrrells appeared on front pages worldwide, all was euphorically forgiven!
The following year, race day was gloriously sunny. But there was concern as water began to cascade onto the track inside Monaco’s tunnel. It turned out that a chip pan fire in the Loews Hotel kitchen above had set off the sprinklers! The race eventually got under way and was won by the popular Gilles Villeneuve for Ferrari.
If 1980 and ’81 had been exciting, 1982 was an all-time cliffhanger. On lap 74 of 76, Alain Prost, with a secure lead in his turbocharged Renault, hit the barrier and was out. Riccardo Patrese’s Brabham then led until he spun, stalled his engine and dropped to third behind Didier Pironi’s Ferrari and Andrea de Cesaris’s Alfa. Lap 75 – two to go – and Pironi stopped in the tunnel but, further back, de Cesaris had run out of petrol. In the meantime Patrese had managed to bump-start his Brabham and was back in the lead! In the commentary box James Hunt dryly remarked that here we were waiting for a winner but nobody seemed to be prepared to oblige, although Riccardo eventually did so.
It’s always said that it is impossible to pass at Monaco unless the chap in front is prepared to move over – but no one told Olivier Panis that in 1996. After Michael Schumacher crashed his Ferrari on the very first lap, Panis made an inspired tyre selection and came through from 14th on the grid to win in his Ligier. There were 21 starters that year, but only three went the whole distance.
It is the one they all want to win. There’s nowhere else like it and it is not difficult to see why. So expect to enjoy Monaco 2014!