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2017-05-24 09:19

CONDITIONS ARE RESPONSIBLE: Red Bull chief Christian Horner blamed the cramped conditions in the Monaco pits for the team's now famous pitstop at the 2016 Monaco GP. Image: AP / Andrej Isakovic/Pool

Braam Peens

Monaco - Sunday will see the 75th running of the 2017 Monaco GP and the sixth race of the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship.

It’s a race like no other, an insane high speed rush needling through 0.61km2 tightly-spaced premium property in the world. Apart from winning one’s home race, Monaco is the postcard from the edge that every driver wants to most stick onto his fridge. 

READ: Australia to Spain - The 2017 F1 season so far

Moreover, along with the Indy 500 (which also takes place this Sunday) and the 24 hours of Le Mans (17-18 June), the Monaco grand prix forms part of the triple crown in motorsport – a feat so far only achieved by Graham Hill in the 1960s.

It is also why the hapless McLaren’s Fernando Alonso – winner in 2006 and 2007 – will be absent from the grid, instead trying his luck in search the second of the crown’s three jewels on the other side of the Atlantic.

Won and lost during qualifying

Notoriously difficult to overtake on, the race is usually won in qualifying on Saturday. Which means that for all its displays of glamour and excess, more often than not the Monaco grand prix is no less processional than some of its more conventional counterparts.

But occasionally, through a combination of slippery conditions or the inevitable deployment of a safety car following an accident, the race through Monaco’s streets redefines the unpredictable – and the excitable. 

1. 2016 - Daniel Ricciardo 'Where's the tyres?'

Luck is the cruellest mistress of them all. Just ask Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who scored his first pole position here last year. As the track started to dry following a wet start, both Daniel and Lewis opted to stay out with the goal of not having to change from the full wet to intermediates but instead directly to slick tyres instead.

Only thing was – Red Bull didn’t have tyres ready for Ricciardo as he rolled into his pit box. In a sport where races are won and lost by fractions of a second, this was an epic fail. Never before has so much chaos – and agony – been so public. A ready-to-pounce Hamilton could hardly believe his fortune as he inherited the win. 

2. 2015 - Mercedes blunder

A race that was Hamilton’s to lose. So it was lost – not by the driver, but by the team. Following Max Verstappen’s crash into Romain Grosjean on lap 64, the safety car was deployed.

Cognisant that this would reduce pole-sitter Hamilton’s twenty second lead over teammate Nico Rosberg but wanting to keep him in the best shape for any eventuality, the Mercedes team made a last-second call for Lewis to pit for fresh rubber.

Unfortunately they miscalculated how long it would take, sending a fuming Hamilton back into the race in third place, where he finished. Mercedes apologised to Hamilton, but the incident sent conspiracy theorists into top gear – including Lewis himself.

3. 2008 The heavens open up over Monaco

The heavens opened 20 minutes before the start, forcing all competitors to fit wet tyres. The third-starting Lewis Hamilton used the pit lane exit to claim second place from Kimi Räikkönen. But on lap 6 he clobbered the barriers, necessitating a pit stop.

Hamilton’s pit crew fuelled him for an extra-long stint, after which he rejoined in fifth position. Between accidents, penalties and pit stops for his competitors ahead, by mid-race Hamilton emerged as the leader. His perfectly-timed second pit stop was also inspired, proving when the planets align – he is unstoppable. Even a slow puncture on his last lap couldn’t keep him from losing this one. 


4. 2006 Michael Schumacher’s win-at-all-costs attitude

Adelaide 1994, Jerez 1997 and Monaco 2006: the races where Michael Schumacher’s win-at-all-costs attitude erred on the disgusting side of (un)acceptable sportsmanship.

Having qualified on provisional pole but aware that Fernando Alonso was on a faster lap, Schumacher parked his Ferrari on the final hairpin, intentionally bringing out yellow flags to nullify Alonso’s current lap.

The move was calculated as it was clumsy, and as reward for his ingenuity, Schumacher was sent to the back of the grid, while Alonso not only started from pole, but also won the race and the 2006 championship. Neither would Schumacher ever win another. There’s that karma thing again.

5. 1992 Senna vs. Mansell

As Honda contemplated their departure from F1 at the end of that year, correspondingly Renault was on the up. Nigel Mansell’s Williams-Renault was the most dominant car of the early 1990s, allowing him to win all of 1992’s first five races; only fate would stop him from winning the sixth at Monaco. It did: a loose wheelnut forced the leading Mansell back to the pits with just 8 laps to go.

On new tyres, Mansell set a lap record two seconds faster than Senna and caught him with three laps to go. Despite his Herculean efforts – and Senna’s tired tyres – Mansell couldn’t find a way past. Gripping stuff.

6. 1996 Olivier Panis' victory 

One of the craziest races not just at Monaco, but in F1 history, on a day where rain, incorrect tyre choices and poor driving eliminated all but four cars when the chequered flag fell, leaving more points-paying positions than there were finishers.

Olivier Panis won this grand prix in a Ligier-Mugen-Honda – his only F1 victory and the hopeless team’s first in 15 seasons. Even more strangely, McLaren’s David Coulthard borrowed one of Michael Schumacher’s helmets to wear during the race. 

7. 1984 - Karma on track

Most people only remember the 1984 race as the one that announced Ayrton Senna’s ascent to superstardom. Oblivious to the peril presented by the monsoon-like conditions, the Brazilian appeared to be in a different league as he caught the leaders hand over fist from 13th on the grid in his unfancied Toleman-Hart.

In fact, Senna passed Prost for the win before the finish line on the last lap, only to hear that the rules deemed the winner based on whoever had led the previous lap. The decision to red-flag the race was unilaterally made by the clerk of the course, Jacky Ickx. Not that this was this a small coincidence, as he was a Porsche sports car driver himself and the engine powering Prost’s McLaren – was also designed by Porsche. Because the race was run less than half-distance, only half-points were awarded. Prost would lose the title that year to Niki Lauda, by, you guessed it, a half-point. It’s called karma.

8. 1982 - The Stuff of Fantasy

A race that no-one, seemingly, wanted to win. René Arnoux planted his Renault on pole position and led for the first 15 laps until retiring. This was followed by a straight fight between Alain Prost’s Renault and Riccardo Patrese’s Brabham – or so everyone thought. Two laps before the end, while leading, Prost hit the barriers. One lap later, Patrese spun and stalled at the hairpin before the tunnel.

This gifted the lead to Ferrari’s Didier Pironi, which ran out of fuel. Next up was Andrea de Cesaris, whose hypermiling effort also came to nothing. Then there was Derek Daly, already nursing a severely damaged car but whose gearbox seized before he could start the final lap. The eventual winner? Riccardo Patrese, who managed to bump-start his car and cruise to his first-ever win. The stuff of fantasy.  


9. 1988 - Arch rivals

Hungry for his first title, in 1988 a determined Ayrton Senna joined Alain Prost at McLaren-Honda to form the sport’s most formidable team in history. Taking pole position by a galactic 1.4 seconds over Prost, Senna appeared untouchable. At the start, Senna disappeared into the distance while Prost was robbed of his second place by Gerhard Berger (Ferrari).

Exemplifying the near-impossibility of overtaking around the Principality, Prost’s patience was tested for 54 laps for an opportunity to overtake. By this time Senna’s lead was an insurmountable 50 seconds. With 11 laps to go, Senna was radioed to stop pushing and ensure a 1-2 McLaren finish. Senna complied, only to crash through an unforced error on lap 65, and gifting his arch-rival the win on a mangled carbon-fibre platter.

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