“I WENT PAST THE FIRE SEV­ERAL TIMES”

F1 Racing (UK) - - PRO -

The Monaco Grand Prix is the slow­est of the year but re­mains one of the most haz­ardous of all – this in spite of av­er­age speeds not hav­ing in­creased as much as at other venues: Se­bas­tian Vet­tel won last year’s race at an av­er­age speed of 92.65mph, whereas in 1950, al­beit on a slightly dif­fer­ent lay­out, Juan Manuel Fan­gio av­er­aged 61.33mph.

Mis­takes in Monaco are less per­ilous than they once were, but only through hard-learned health and safety les­sons. Among the most ghastly was Lorenzo Ban­dini’s death in 1967, when he clipped the guardrail at the chi­cane with his left-rear and spun into the straw bales, which were all that separated the track from the quay­side and the iron moor­ing bol­lards. Nearby spec­ta­tors re­lated that they could hear Ban­dini’s screams above the en­gine noise of pass­ing cars as his in­verted Fer­rari and the straw bales caught fire, fanned by the blades of the TV he­li­copter hov­er­ing lech­er­ously above. And the race car­ried on. “I went past the fire sev­eral times,” said Ban­dini’s team-mate Chris Amon, “and it never oc­curred to me that Lorenzo could still be in it.”

The mar­shals are now bet­ter trained – for months be­fore­hand they run spe­cial­ist drills in right­ing in­verted cars as well as fire-fight­ing – and the en­tire cir­cuit is bounded by high-tech bar­ri­ers. There’s no room for com­pla­cency, as Karl Wendlinger’s near-fa­tal 1994 shunt at the scene of Ban­dini’s death am­ply proved.

Nowa­days it’s the game of chance the driv­ers play with the bar­ri­ers that causes the ma­jor­ity of shunts, large and small. Bet­ter safety pro­vi­sions mean the con­se­quences are less se­vere than in years gone by: in 1991 Alex Caffi hooked a right-rear into the bar­rier at the Swim­ming Pool and was left sit­ting in a pile of car­bon fi­bre. Last year Stof­fel Van­doorne nerfed his right-front against the apex bar­rier there in Q2 and hit the bar­ri­ers – but still raced the same car the next day. When Caffi crashed, both ends of the Swim­ming Pool were blind-en­try cor­ners. Now they’re open chi­canes. Some say this has had a detri­men­tal ef­fect on the chal­lenge of Monaco – oth­ers, per­haps more wisely, point out that the bar­ri­ers are there to be kissed.

“Michael [Schu­macher] would scuff ev­ery tyre on a qual­i­fy­ing lap,” says Ross Brawn, “be­cause that was the short­est and fastest way round…”

Be­low: in 1995, David Coulthard’s Wil­liams tan­gles with both Fer­raris on the open­ing lap, re­sult­ing in a restart

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