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The History & Political Drama of Formula One's Monaco Grand Prix

Updated on May 28, 2013
Ayrton Senna's Legendary Rainy Drive of the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix
Ayrton Senna's Legendary Rainy Drive of the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix

The Monaco Grand Prix is one of Formula One's most historic and grandeur race. This article covers the history of this fantastic grand prix. I hope to explain why this particular event is so highly regarded by the sport's fans.

The Attraction of Monaco

In 1929 the Monaco Grand Prix came to the Principality of Monaco, a nation along the Mediterranean Sea and bordered by France. This inaugural race predated the formation of Formula One itself. Monaco is known for its casinos, extremely wealthy citizens, and a gorgeous landscape covered in exotic yachts and sports car. This atmosphere, combined with the Circuit de Monaco, a race course twisting through the public streets of the city, is what makes the Monaco Grand Prix such a spectacle.

Eighty-three years of glitz, glamor, and Formula One's most challenging circuit has written countless tales of exciting drama for the story books. Bitter rivalries, historic upsets, and political drama have all come to unfold in this otherwise quiet principality. Let's take a look at some of the most memorable events in the history of the Monaco Grand Prix.

1929 Monaco Grand Prix
1929 Monaco Grand Prix | Source

The Beginning: 1929

The first Monaco Grand Prix was held in 1929, organized by the Automobile Club de Monaco and an otherwise unimportant man named Anthony Noghes. This was an invitational race that was ultimately won by William Grover-Williams in a Bugatti Type 25B. This was the humble origin of Formula One's most prestigious races, however, it predated the formation of Formula One by twenty-one years. By 1933 the Monaco Grand Prix had been rated among other European Grands Prix, officially making it one of Europe's most important automobile races. The unfortunate timing of World War II, however, brought an end to auto racing in Europe in 1939. In 1945 racing made a come back and one year later, the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobie) was formed. Finally, in 1950 the first formal FIA Formula One Championship race was held at Silverstone. The Monaco Grand Prix was included in this inaugural season, forever setting it as one of Formula One's most historical sites.

Battle to the End: 1982

The 1982 Monaco Grand Prix is famous for featuring some of the most exciting finishing laps of any Formula One grand prix. In the last two laps rain began to fall on the track. The leading driver, Alain Prost, crashed coming out of a chicane handing over the lead to Riccardo Patrese. On the final lap Riccardo Patrese spun and stalled his engine, the next two drivers ran out of fuel, and yet another experienced catastrophic gearbox damage. In the end, Riccardo Patrese got his car rolling downhill, pop-started his stalled engine, and took first place. This amazing race has got to be one of the sport's most exciting, featuring 5 potential winners in the last two laps.

1982 Monaco Grand Prix - The Big Spin
1982 Monaco Grand Prix - The Big Spin | Source

Ayrton Senna: 1984 Monaco Grand Prix

The Arrival of Senna: 1984

The on track drama is not the only story weaved in Formula One. Often, political controversy makes its way into the story books as well. The 1984 Monaco Grand Prix saw some of Formula One's most dramatic events both on and off track. In 1984, Ayrton Senna was a rookie to Formula One and his legendary racing career would forever be haunted by the political drama that came to be in this particular race. Rain had been falling the entire race-day and it continued to pour throughout the event. Alain Prost began the race in first place and Senna had qualified only thirteenth with a relatively uncompetitive car. Alain Prost was at one point overtaken by his rival, Nigel Mansell, but shortly after Mansell crashed, handing the lead back over to Prost. Meanwhile, Senna had been gaining on Alain Prost and several other established Formula One Champions, by three seconds every lap (a very rapid gain). Senna eventually caught up with the race favorite, Prost. Just as Senna overtook Alain Prost one steward took a red flag from a track official and waved it, signalling the end of the race (due to the heavy rain). Even though Senna passed Prost, rules state that positions are determined by that of the last complete lap. Since Senna was the only one to finish the lap before the flag was waved, the previous lap in which Prost was still in the lead was counted. This was the first time Alain Prost, a French driver, had won the coveted Monaco Grand Prix. The steward, Jacky Ickx, had not consulted any other stewards or officials about the decision to end the race. In addition, Jacky Ickx was an employee of Porsche, who supplied the engine for Prost's car that year. Because of the dramatic political events surrounding the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix, this race is still considered one of Formula One's most controversial. However, it has also been marked as the arrival of Senna as a legend in Formula One.

To Win, You First Must Finish: 1996

The 1996 Formula One season was the first season that Michael Schumacher raced with Ferrari, and he was a race favorite to win in Monaco, having qualified in first. Schumacher, however, crashed on the first lap. This wasn't the only crash of the day, however. Twenty cars entered the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix but only four finished the race, and one of those didn't cross the finish line under the two hour time limit.

What's Your Favorite Moment?

The Monaco Grand Prix has certainly earned it's place in the history of Formula One. Monaco is the home of royalty, of wealth, and is arguably, the center of Formula One itself.

What was your favorite Monaco Grand Prix?


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