“THIS GUY IS **@@*** CRAZY”

F1 Racing (UK) - - PRO -

Not for noth­ing is Monaco syn­ony­mous with gam­bling. In the mid 19th cen­tury the en­ter­pris­ing Prince Charles III made the best of a poor hand – he’d had to trade own­er­ship of neigh­bour­ing Men­ton and Ro­que­brune, Monaco’s chief sources of in­come, for in­de­pen­dence from France. So he opened a casino in which one could play roulette, a game banned in France, ini­ti­at­ing Monaco’s trans­for­ma­tion from back­wa­ter state to the play­ground of the wealthy.

Chance and op­por­tunism have played a part in the out­come of the Monaco Grand Prix from its ear­li­est days. In the first world cham­pi­onship grand prix held there, in 1950, gust­ing wind sent waves over the para­pet and onto the track at Tabac, leav­ing a pool of wa­ter that race leader Juan Manuel Fan­gio ne­go­ti­ated cleanly – the fol­low­ing driv­ers less so. Fan­gio won by a lap. And just two years ago Red Bull threw away cer­tain vic­tory for Daniel Ric­cia­rdo by mud­dling their tyre sets in the crowded pit­lane.

While the nar­row lay­out can make for pro­ces­sional rac­ing, and does ren­der pole vi­tal, the un­ex­pected is never far away. In 1992 run­away leader Nigel Mansell suf­fered a punc­ture, and the re­sul­tant pit­stop left him be­hind archri­val Ayr­ton Senna, who duly ‘parked the bus’ at ev­ery cor­ner for the rest of the race. Four years on, Olivier Pa­nis took an un­likely win af­ter a mis­fire in qual­i­fy­ing con­signed him to 14th on the grid. “I went to the me­chan­ics and said, ‘We can still fin­ish on the podium,’” he re­calls. “I saw the looks from them that said ‘This guy is nice, but he’s fuck­ing crazy.’”

Rain oblig­ingly made the race chaotic, as it had for Jeanpierre Bel­toise in 1972. Pa­nis was one of only three driv­ers run­ning at the fin­ish, but he earned this vic­tory through a com­bi­na­tion of pit­ting at just the right mo­ment, over­tak­ing when he had to – nudg­ing Ed­die Irvine’s Fer­rari in the process – and hold­ing his nerve when his fuel ran low at the end, care­fully short-shift­ing while ig­nor­ing his en­gi­neer’s in­creas­ingly shrill calls to pit for a splash-and-dash.

You can’t rely on rain, though; de­spite the per­cep­tion that Monaco is of­ten wet, only twice in the past ten years have the heav­ens opened dur­ing the race it­self.

Right: it’s only rained here twice in the past ten years. But when it does, it’s a true test of a driver’s met­tle, as Valt­teri Bot­tas dis­cov­ers in 2014

Above: Af­ter­math of a huge start­line shunt be­tween Pa­trese’s Alfa Romeo and Pi­quet’s Brab­ham on the pit straight in 1985

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