This weekend the Formula 1 circus visits the glitziest, most glamorous circuit of them all, Monaco. Even people who don’t care for Grand Prix motor sport know about Monaco. Only the Italian Grand Prix at Monza has a longer history than Monaco.
The streets of Monte Carlo have often proved difficult to master and usually only the best of the best triumph here. Ayrton Senna won at Monaco six times, while Michael Schumacher won there five times, as did Graham Hill. Alain Prost took the chequered flag first at Monaco four times while Jackie Stewart and Niki Lauda are other multiple Monaco winners. The names of Fangio, Moss, Keke Rosberg and Gilles Villenueve also grace the winner’s records.
Monaco also can throw up some unusual and controversial results especially if it is wet. In 1981 when Villenueve won he did so in an extremely unwieldy and evil handling but very powerful Ferrari 156 turbo. Monaco, with its short straights and tight corners is a place where a poor handling car is even more of a disadvantage than elsewhere, while the horsepower advantage means less and less, which means that Gilles won by just relying on his uncanny skill and determination.
1982 was another weird result, when Ricardo Patrese took his Brabham BMW to first place. He was very lucky to win though, as he spun and stalled his car on the final lap. This was the race that it seemed no one really wanted to win. Alain Prost led very comfortably in his Renault until lap 74 of 76, when he spectacularly and famously crashed out as the rain began to fall. This put Patrese in the lead until his spin, which then put Pironi, then de Cesaris and finally Sullivan into the lead until each of them either ran out of fuel or crashed out. Patrese finally got his car started again, and crawled to the chequered flag to take the victory.
In 1984 there was another controversial result when Alain Prost took victory in his McLaren TAG, as the race was red flagged before it had reached the half way mark due to the pouring rain. Mansell had led early in his Lotus Renault, but crashed out when the rain came tumbling down. Prost led until the red flag was waved by race marshal Jacky Ickx, just as the rapid Ayrton Senna in the Toleman Hart was about to pass the Frenchman. Many people criticized Ickx for being too hasty with the red flag yet they forget that he was a renowned rain master and that not long after the red flag when Senna passed the Frenchman he thumped a barrier and severely damaged his car. They also neglect the fact that third placed Stefan Bellof was catching both Senna and Prost and would have soon passed them in his Tyrrell Cosworth.
As for the 2009 edition of the Monaco Grand Prix, I feel that the Red Bulls will charge to the chequered flag and win the race, especially if there is any rain. Mark Webber has always done rather well in Monte Carlo taking a podium for BMW Williams a few years back and having led here a couple of times as well. I think that Webber will do wonderfully well this year but wonder if he will be allowed to win the race if he has Sebastian Vettel right behind him. Perhaps if the Red Bulls dominate in a way that I expect they could, then team orders will come into play as at this stage Vettel is the driver with the most realistic hope of catching Button.
The Brawns have been the cars to beat so far this year, but I wonder if the will do as well at Monaco. I don’t think that either Button or Barrichello have records that are worth speaking of in Monte Carlo. Trulli in the Toyota and Raikkonen in the Ferrari are the dark horses in my opinion. They both have good records at Monaco and the Toyota is probably the third best car after the Brawn and Red Bulls, whilst the Spanish Grand Prix showed us that the Ferrari is much improved and could be a threat.