Formula One in Monaco - a retrospective 28 May 2003
The Monaco Grand Prix is the one race of the year that every driver dreams of winning. Like the Indy 500 or Le Mans, it stands alone, almost distinct from the sport from which it was born. A combination of precision driving, technical excellence and sheer bravery is required to win in Monte Carlo, facets which highlight the differences between the great and the good in Formula One.
"Whatever else one thinks about it, the Monaco Grand Prix is just special," says multiple winner Michael Schumacher. "Even the slightest error here is punished."
To win in Monaco places a driver's name on a list that includes many of history's all-time greats. Both Graham Hill, the man nicknamed 'Mr Monaco', and Schumacher have won it five times, Alain Prost took four victories, whilst Stirling Moss and Jackie Stewart each won here three times. But the record of wins in the Principality resides with the legendary Ayrton Senna, who won in Monte Carlo six times.
Monaco, however, has been known to throw up a number of surprise victories, so demanding and arduous is the race. In 1972 Jean-Pierre Beltoise took a storming win in the wet. It would be his only victory in the sport. In 1982 Riccardo Patrese won against the odds in a race that it seemed nobody wanted to win, with Prost spinning out, Didier Pironi and Andrea de Cesaris running out of fuel and Derek Daly leaking oil. In 1996, Olivier Panis took his first, and Ligier's last Formula One victory.
Monaco has also seen some frightening crashes. In 1955 Alberto Ascari was launched into the harbour and in 1967 Lorenzo Bandini crashed at the chicane and suffered horrendous burns from which he was to die. In 1994 Karl Wendlinger crashed in the same spot and went into a coma, from which he subsequently recovered.
Despite the obvious safety implications of the demanding, tight streets of Monaco, the race persists as one of the greats. Monaco is known as the jewel in Formula One's crown and the excitement of the race, combined with the glamour of Monaco itself, keeps the sport and its fans coming back year after year.