HAPPIER DAYS: Teenage F1 rising star Max Verstappen en route to victory in a 2014 Zandvoort Masters’ race. No such luck on Sunday at the tricky Monaco F1 Grand Prix where he was involved in a high-speed crash. Image: Newspress
MONTE CARLO, Monaco (well, not actually, I’m in Muizenberg but I can see the sea, just) – I’m sure most Formula 1 fan feels for British driver Lewis Hamilton after his team’s cock-up at the 73rd Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday [May 24, 2015], causing him to drop from the lead to third after 60+ laps (nevertheless, a podium finish).
For sure, Hamilton will get over it in time for the next race (Canadian GP) but I reckon what really irked the lad was having to ‘gift’ (arghhh! Ed) the race to his Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg, thus allowing the German to stand tall in the hat-trick stakes – and in the company of giants – that the really tight Monaco circuit rarely permits.
LOCAL IS GOOD
The record books show that only Ayrton Senna (five in a row, 1989-93, but six in total), Alain Prost (1984-86, but four in total), Graham Hill (1963-65, five in total) could boast a hat trick, before Rosberg’s modern-day achievement this past weekend.
But at this juncture not let’s forget our very own South African ace driver Jody Scheckter who won twice at Monaco in 1977 and 1979 in his Wolf-Ford and then a Ferrari in an era where it was quite common for drivers to ‘jump ship’ to another race team mid-season.
VIDEO: Verstappen crash: Anyalyse it yourself
Some other interesting facts and figures surrounding Monaco tell us the first race was run back in 1929 as part of a European Series with British driver Bill Grover-Williams taking honours in a Bugatti. Perhaps not surprisingly, the circuit has changed little down the years since the principality of Monaco covers only 2.02 square kilometres!
LITTLE COUNTRY, BIG ON SPORT
The population in Monaco at last count reported 36 371 souls living there, most of them rather wealthy in this (income) tax-free part of the world that’s found in the French Riviera in Western Europe.
Nevertheless, within its rather limited boundary can be observed 515(!) police officers; two major football teams play there and the principality hosts at other times of the year the Cannes Film Festival, occasionally the start of the Tour de France cycle race, and, of course, getting back to motoring: the Monte Carlo Rally.
Race driver Nelson Piquet once remarked: “driving around the circuit always reminded him of riding his bicycle around one’s lounge – it’s that tricky.” Amazingly, there’s only been one F1 fatality in the history of the Monaco GP and that was back in 1967 when Lorenzo Bandini crashed and was so severely burned that he died three days later.
There’s been a few close calls, mind: Sunday’s high-speed crash after Max Verstappen attempted to slingshot past Romain Grosjean’s Lotus could have been a horror – but thanks to the inherent strength of his Toro Rosso car – and strategically-placed impact-absorbing crash barriers – the youngster simply walked away, even remembering to replace his steering wheel, and following rule No.1 from Formula 1 boss of 40 years standing, Bernie Ecclestone.
Interestingly, Monaco is the only F1 venue that doesn’t adhere to Ecclestone’s rule No.2: normally any race must have a minimum distance of 305km... impossible at Monaco, so instead the drivers have to do 78 laps, and that may well have been Hamilton’s undoing in the ensuing chaos while the pace car was deployed after the Verstappen crash.
Ah well, better luck next year, Lewis!