A History Of The Monaco Grand Prix: Stars, Cars & Nebuchadnezzars

During its glittering history, the Monaco Grand Prix has always attracted high drama and celebrities. We look back at the last 62 years of Riviera F1 action on and off the track…
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During its glittering history, the Monaco Grand Prix has always attracted high drama and celebrities. We look back at the last 62 years of Riviera F1 action on and off the track…

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1950: The first year the Monaco Grand Prix counted towards the Formula One World Championship. Juan Manuel Fangio scored his first F1 victory.

1955: After an interval of a few years the race returned, and, at the age of 56, Louis Chiron became the oldest driver to compete in an F1 race – despite Michael Schumacher’s best attempts. Alberto Ascari ended up in the harbour that year. The days, the Red Bull Racing drivers like to reenact the Italian’s splash by jumping off the Energy Station.

1956: Hollywood actress Grace Kelly married Prince Rainer III in a lavish two-day ceremony. Although she never made another film (despite Albert Hitchcock’s pleading) she did go on to present trophies at the Grand Prix.

1965: In the 60s, Graham Hill earned the nickname ‘Mr Monaco’ after winning the race five times. His most famous victory came in ’65, despite driving up an escape road to avoid a backmarker. These days, Vijay Mallya has lifted that title by throwing the biggest yacht parties. Paul Hawkins repeated Ascari’s feat by driving his Lotus into the harbour. In fact, few drivers emerge from Monaco dry – though that’s mostly down to champagne.

1966: The John Frankenheimer movie Grand Prix featured cameos from several drivers of the day, such as Graham Hill and Jim Clark, but the cast also descended on Monaco. They included James Garner, Yves Montand, Eva Marie Saint and the gorgeous Francoise Hardy.

1971: Infamous director Roman Polanski trailed Jackie Stewart around the Monaco Grand Prix for his revealing film Weekend Of A Champion. He even got into the driver’s bathroom. And Ringo Starr made an appearance, too.

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1974: Sixteen cars retired from this encounter, most of them through a huge midfield accident. Ronnie Peterson took the win, while Britain’s John Watson scored his first F1 points.

1982: Perhaps the craziest Monaco GP ever. Rene Arnoux, Alain Prost, Riccardo Patrese, Didier Pironi and Andrea de Cesaris all suffered mishaps while leading – although Patrese managed to restart his car after spinning to claim the victory (his first). As James Hunt commented: “We’re waiting for a winner but we don’t appear to be getting one.”

1984: Alain Prost, who along with Ayrton Senna would dominate the top step of the Monaco podium for the next decade, took his first and, disappointingly, most controversial win in the Principality. The race was stopped before reaching two-thirds distance and therefore only half-points were awarded. Prost regretted the stoppage at the end of the season as he lost out on the world title by half a point.

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1992: Williams’ Nigel Mansell, who had won all five of the previous races that year, had a tense duel with Senna after a loose wheel-nut forced him to pit and emerge behind the Brazilian. Senna took the chequered flag just 0.2 seconds ahead of our Nige.

1993: Senna scored his record sixth victory. Back in 1987, he was the first driver to win in a car with active suspension. He was caught by police the next day for riding a motorbike without a helmet. He was released when they realized who he was.

1997: Stewart Grand Prix finish second, five races into the team’s short life. Sir Jackie and son Paul Stewart weep with joy at the podium ceremony.

1998: Sylvester Stallone was in the paddock trying to bring a new movie about F1 to life. The film was never made, so we have no idea whether it would have been worse than his IndyCar movie Driven. Incidentally, Ron Howard’s movie about Hunt vs. Lauda, Rush, is out in September.

2004: Jarno Trulli took his only grand prix victory after leader Michael Schumacher took his nose off in the tunnel.

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2005: Red Bull Racing tied up with Star Wars, and that meant Chewbacca and C-3PO had a paddock pass and grid access. The following year, in a similar promotional arrangement with a Superman film, David Coulthard suffered the indignity wearing a red cape on the third step of the podium.

2006: Although Michael Schumacher won an impressive five Monaco GPs, equaling Graham Hill, his 2006 visit was gravely controversial. He was sent to the back of the grid after ruining Fernando Alonso’s qualifying lap by ‘parking’ at the Rascasse turn and bringing out yellow flags. Mind you, there is a bar there and driving a Ferrari is thirsty work.

2008: Lewis Hamilton’s singular Monaco win made McLaren the most successful constructor, with 15 victory’s on the tight and twisty streets. Not looking so hot for them this year. Still, with Ferrari on nine and Red Bull on three the record is safe for now.

2009: Jenson Button won his ‘home’ race with Brawn, but parked in the wrong place and had to run half a mile to the podium ceremony. Winning the Monaco Grand Prix is the single coolest thing a sportsman can be seen doing – yet Jenson managed to look like a bit of a prat, and that takes some doing.