Top 5 Monaco Grands Prix
Coming off an extra weeks break in Formula 1 means F1 fans are itching at the bit to see the cars hit the track in anger this coming weekend, and what better place to see the drivers back in action then at the crème de la crème of all F1 circuits: Monaco.
First appearing on the official World Championship calendar in F1’s inaugural year in 1950, it has been held every year since 1955 (with the exception of a cancelled COVID race in 2020) and is regarded as the pinnacle of the year for the sport and is the one race every driver wants to win.
The late great Ayrton Senna was deemed the ultimate king of the Monte Carlo circuit, winning the race a record six times across his career, including five in a row between 1989 and 1993.
Graham Hill and Michael Schumacher both won in Monaco five times, while Aussie’s Jack Brabham, Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo all tasted victory around the famous streets.
But of all the 69 World Championship races held in the principality, which five are the ones that stand the test of time the most?
Well, sit back and relax and take a trip down memory lane as I go over the top five Monaco Grands Prix of all time.
5. 2008 – Winner: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)
Monaco is often a race celebrate for the skills of a driver, rather than overall great racing, and you will see that reflected with the majority of entries here. To start off with, we’re going to 2008 where Lewis Hamilton secured his first of three (so far) Monaco wins.
Having started third on the grid, Hamilton moved up to second behind pole sitter Felipe Massa before colliding with the barrier at Tabac on lap six causing a puncture.
Luckily for the future World Champion he wasn’t too far from the pits, and it was also raining, meaning that other drivers were also struggling and were forced to pit too. Damage limitation say Hamilton only drop to fifth place and with a long fuel stint to come on intermediate tyres as the track dried out.
The long stint proved crucial for the McLaren driver, setting a string of fast laps as he eventually took the lead on lap 33 after Felipe Massa pitted, setting even more fast laps before pitting himself on lap 54 for slick tyres at the absolute perfect time to set himself up with a whopping 40 second lead.
A late crash by the Williams of Nico Rosberg caused a slight bit of drama in the race, but he maintained his lead and Hamilton cruised to the win in one of his best ever drives.
4. 1992 – Winner: Ayrton Senna (McLaren)
On paper, seeing the name Ayrton Senna next to first place on a list of Monaco Grand Prix results is about as common as seeing a blue sky or green grass.
But this was one race in which the Brazilian had to fight tooth and nail to claim the win in a season where his McLaren was far inferior to the dominant Williams of Nigel Mansell.
Mansell went into Monaco having won the opening five races of the season and secured the ever crucial pole position on the Saturday, setting himself up for his sixth consecutive race win and first ever triumph at Monaco.
After leading and dominating the entire race, Mansell suffered a loose wheel nut on his FW14B with only seven laps remaining, forcing him to pit. This late stop brought him out behind Senna’s McLaren, and with Senna on used tyres and Mansell on brand new tyres, it seemed inevitable that the Britt would find a way past the Brazilian.
However what followed was some of the most tense and exciting wheel-to-wheel racing ever seen in the sport, as Senna did everything in his power to keep Mansell behind for the final four laps, and ultimately would succeed, finishing a mere two-tenths ahead of Mansell to claim his first win of the 1992 season and penultimate win around the streets of Monaco.
Mansell would ultimately get the last laugh in 1992 by winning the Championship, but it was an incredible duel between two legends of the sport.
3. 1961 – Winner: Stirling Moss (Lotus)
Another race in which supreme driving takes the cake when it comes to a win. The legendary Stirling Moss held off the then dominant Ferraris to claim what many argue to be his greatest ever race.
Moss took pole on the Saturday but was quickly overtaken by the more powerful Ferrari of Richie Ginther on race day in what was deemed the ‘sharknose’ Ferrari that would go on to win five of the eight races that year in the hands of Phil Hill and Giancarlo Baghetti.
Having dropped back to third behind his Lotus teammate of Jim Clark, Moss was able to make a move on Ginther on lap 14 after Clark had retired with a fuel pump issue and retook the lead. Similar to Hamilton in 2008, a series of incredible laps by Moss helped him maintain the lead and take the eventual win ahead of the frustrated Ferraris of Ginther and Hill.
Such was the impressive nature of Moss’s drive, his fastest lap was the same time he had set a year earlier in a car that had a far superior and more powerful engine than his car in 1961. It was an incredible showing from arguably the greatest driver to never win a World Championship.
2. 1996 – Winner: Olivier Panis (Ligier)
The race with the fewest finishes in F1 history saw the unlikeliest of winners in what turned out to be a very entertaining Monaco Grand Prix.
Olivier Panis in his Ligier had only qualified in 14th place and was a long shot to take the win. However given after five laps there were only 13 of the 22 cars still running, his odds improved, before a very well timed pit stop for slicks in the wet race gave him even more of a shout.
Panis was in a podium spot when the Williams of Damon Hill blew up on lap 40, and then found himself in the lead on lap 60 after Jean Alesi’s Benetton retired with broken suspension.
The race then became a timed affair after the early laps were raced at a slow pace, meaning the 78 laps would not be completed within the allotted two hours. The Ligier team became nervous for Panis however as his car was low on fuel and were avoiding bringing him in for fuel as it would cost them a famous victory.
With the McLaren of David Coulthard (famously racing in Michael Schumacher’s helmet) growing ever larger in his mirrors, the Frenchman lifted and coasted through the corners and short-shifted in the exits to attempt to save fuel, an effort that eventually paid off as he crossed the finish line in first to take his only ever F1 win and the last ever for Ligier.
1. 1982 – Winner: Riccardo Patrese (Brabham)
Regarded as ‘the race nobody wanted to win’ and once described by the late great Murray Walker as ‘the craziest race ever’, this race is best known for all the drama that came in the final three laps.
Rene Arnoux in his Renault initially led the race for the opening 15 laps before ultimately spinning out and retiring. From there his teammate Alain Prost led the majority of the race before also spinning off, damaging his car by losing a wheel and handing the lead to the Brabham of Riccardo Patrese.
As the win looked his, Patrese then spun himself with only one and a half laps remaining, allowing Didier Prioni’s Ferrari to take the lead. However on the last lap Pironi ran out of fuel in the tunnel, meaning a certain win for the Alfa Romeo of Andrea de Cesaris who was in second. But he too ran out of fuel, costing him his first ever F1 win, and then amazingly giving the lead back to Riccardo Patrese who had managed to bump-start his Brabham to go on to secure his first ever win in the sport.
Murray Walker’s co-commentator at the time, the legendary James Hunt, famously said during the broadcast “We’re sitting by the start/finish line waiting for a winner to come past and we don’t seem to be getting one.”
That was the perfect summary for one of the most bizarre and epic race finishes ever seen in the history of Formula One.
Do you agree with this list? Which Grand Prix at Monaco is your favourite? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
This article was originally written for The Roar. You can read the published version here