“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!

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