The most spectacular Monaco Grand Prix moments

Ask any racing driver to name the world’s top motor race, and they will probably pick one of three: the Le Mans 24 Hours, the Indy 500 – or the Monaco Grand Prix. Here, we aimed to pick our top five Monaco moments; only we couldn’t agree on which five, so we sneaked in a sixth…

In some ways it’s odd that the Monaco Grand Prix is the most prestigious on the F1 calendar, when the road circuit’s narrow track and overtaking difficulties don’t always make for great racing. But there’s no doubt about it – this is the one that the drivers most want to win. We start with the most recent of our five (well, six) top moments: Ayrton Senna’s qualifying lap in 1988.

Senna, 1988: A different dimension

Between 1987 and 1993, Senna won six of the seven Monaco Grands Prix, but it’s the one that he didn’t win which sticks most in our minds. More to the point, his pole-setting lap in qualifying for the 1988 race, a lap in which he went 1.427 seconds faster than anyone else. “I was kind of driving by instinct,” he said of what is arguably the greatest lap in the history of the sport. “I was in a different dimension… well beyond my conscious understanding.”

In the race itself, Senna was so far in the lead that he was told to slow down… and that’s where it all went wrong. With the instinctive fluidity of his spectacular drive destroyed, he hit the barrier. The victory went to Alain Prost: the last person Senna would have wanted to see win.

Patrese, 1982: Pure farce

The last three laps of the 1982 race were almost farcical. The absurdity began when the comfortably leading Renault of Alain Prost slammed into the barrier, leaving Patrese in the lead. Until he spun, on the penultimate lap, and came to a stop across the track with a dead engine. Leaving Pironi’s Ferrari in the lead… until Pironi ran out of the fuel in the tunnel. Meanwhile, de Cesaris’s Alfa also ran out of fuel, and Daly’s Williams hit the barrier, removing his rear wing and half his gearbox. He too ground to a halt.

But wait…! Patrese is moving again! He manages to get across the finish line to take his first GP victory, with a (stationary) Pironi in second place and a (stationary) de Cesaris in third. You can watch the video of the final laps here.

Jochen Rindt, 1970: Brabham’s last-minute loss

The last lap of the 1970 race saw Rindt right up on the tail of Jack Brabham, having doggedly closed the nine-second gap he’d inherited some three-quarters of the way through the race. In the very last corner, under enormous pressure from the German-Austrian driver, Brabham lost it and slid into the barrier – leaving Rindt with victory. There’s a video for this one, too.

Graham Hill, 1969: Mr Monaco

This was the fifth Monaco win for the British driver who became known as ‘Mr Monaco’, thanks to his domination of the race in the 1960s.

Incidentally, when he died in a plane crash in 1975, Hill was the only driver ever to have won all three of the world’s top races: Monaco, Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500… and he still is.

Ascari, 1955: Swimming lesson

In the closing laps of the 1955 race, Stirling Moss was leading when his Mercedes’ engine blew, gifting the lead to Alberto Ascari; but the Italian crashed at the chicane, went straight through the straw bales and ended up in the harbour. Click here to see the footage.

Ascari swam to safety, suffering nothing worse than a broken nose, but was less lucky just four days later, on 26 May, when he died in a casual test-drive of a Ferrari at Monza.

William Grover-Williams, 1929: Secret agent

We haven’t included British driver Grover-Williams just because he won the first ever Monaco Grand Prix (in his Bugatti), although that is a good enough reason in itself. No, what made us unable to leave him out was his life off the circuit. He was a special agent who worked under cover in Paris during WW2, before being captured and killed by the Nazis. A hero in more ways than one.

Photos: Getty/Rex

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