As the Crown Jewel of the Formula One calendar, The Principality has witnessed some breath-taking drives and great racing over the years. From Graham Hill & Ayrton Senna to Lewis Hamilton, no F1 circuit rewards fearlessness and sheer commitment in the car quite like threading the needle through the streets of Monaco with its walls closing in on the best drivers in the world.
We’ve gone through decades of great racing around the spectacular circuit to pick some of the best drives ever witnessed at the Monaco Grand Prix!
1. GRAHAM HILL – 1965
Graham Hill was the OG King of Monaco, dominant in 1965
Graham Hill, father of F1 World Champion, Damon Hill, was Formula One’s first King of Monte-Carlo. Hill owned Monaco with 5 wins at The Principality and in 1965, he made it a hat-trick with arguably his most dominant performance. He qualified on pole a whole second faster than Ferrari driver Lorenzo Bandini and 1.4 seconds quicker than his own teammate Sir Jackie Stewart.
On lap 25 of the race though, while in the lead, Hill was forced off the circuit to avoid the ailing car of Bob Anderson out of the tunnel, dropping him down to fifth. But he recovered and clawed his way back towards the front, passing Stewart and chasing down Bandini to win the 100 lap race – one that he recalls as one the greatest wins of his illustrious career. Hill became synonymous with Monaco and with this win in 1965, he not only surged into the Championship lead, but went past Juan Manuel Fangio’s two wins and matched Stirling Moss’ three wins around the iconic circuit.
2. MICHAEL SCHUMACHER – 1997
Schumacher, with a win for the ages at Monaco in 1997
One of Michael Schumacher’s finest wins came in The Principality in 1997. One of the real masters of the wet – Schumacher dominated the early stages of the race in soaking wet conditions and after just five laps, Schumacher was already leading by 22 seconds.
Schumacher was 75 seconds ahead of 2nd when he almost threw away his race on lap 53 at the Saint Devote corner, but he kept his engine running and found enough space to get back on track and take his first victory of 1997 that catapulted him into the championship lead. The race was scheduled for 78 laps but the wet conditions meant that only 62 laps were run before the time limit of 2 hours was hit, with Schumacher taking the win by 53 seconds ahead of his future teammate Rubens Barichello who remarkably scored the first podium for Stewart Racing in just their fifth F1 start.
The win for Schumacher was also the first win for Ferrari in Monaco since 1981, won by Gilles Villeneuve.
3. JARNO TRULLI – 2004
Jarno stunned the field for his only F1 win…at Monaco!
When you think of the Monaco Grand Prix, names like Graham Hill, Schumacher, Senna, Prost, Vettel spring to mind…but Monaco has also had a few winners whose first and only win has come at the most iconic venue on the F1 calendar. Welcome, Jarno Trulli…
The Italian drive took his first and only pole position in Formula 1 for Renault in 2004 and followed it up with a stellar drive, with a series of great laps to come out in the lead late into the race. Schumacher, Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Mark Webber and a few others all crashed, leaving only 10 of the original 20 starters finishing the race.
Trulli held off a storming Jenson Button to take his only Formula One win and where better than at the crown jewel of the year, the Monaco Grand Prix.
4. LEWIS HAMILTON – 2008
A modern-day master in changeable conditions, Lewis proved it in 2008
Lewis Hamilton had won the season opener in Melbourne in 2008 but coming into the 2008 Monaco Grand Prix weekend, McLaren looked to be behind a very dominant Ferrari team with Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa at the wheel.
After qualifying 3rd behind the Ferraris, the weather changed overnight & a wet race was on the cards, something we’ve now come to understand plays into the hands of Lewis Hamilton. It wasn’t all rosy though for the current 7-time world champion, as Lewis made contact with the barriers on lap 6 & limped back to the pits with a puncture. That however, turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Lewis charged to the front with a heavy fuel load and fresh tyres in nightmarish conditions & as other took on a more conservative approach, Lewis took the lead after the others pitted. There was still late drama that ensued as The Brit suffered a rear puncture late in the race! Fortunately for Lewis, he had a fairly large gap to Robert Kubica but had the race been allowed to go the whole distance & not completed on time of 2 hours, Hamilton would have lost his lead – and the win. Instead, Sunday at Monaco in 2008 resulted in one of the most dramatic wins in Lewis’ career!
5. AYRTON SENNA – 1988 QUALIFYING
Since there wasn’t footage of 1988, Senna made up with this special lap in 1990!
While the late Ayrton Senna won the Monaco Grand Prix a record 6 times, 1988 will not be remembered for the race but for one of the most revered qualifying laps in the history of the sport.
The Brazilian legend putting in a sublime lap in Qualifying to be 1.42 seconds ahead of teammate Alain Prost and over 2.6 secs faster than 3rd place Gerhard Berger. To add to the mystery, no footage of the lap exists and Senna himself admitted that he was in a different dimension through that lap & said that he wasn’t driving the car consciously but by complete instinct. “I never reached that feeling again”, Senna later said. He was untouchable the entire weekend, except for one momentary lapse in concentration.
It was the one race that really got away from Ayrton, for no fault but his own. He led every single lap of the race and was leading by almost a minute on lap 67. But on a weekend where he and the car seemed to be one, he made an error, pushing too hard and ignoring team boss Ron Dennis’ calls to ease off, putting himself in the wall, to hand Prost his 4th Monaco win. Senna climbed out of the car and walked straight home to his apartment in Monaco, not communicating with the team until later that night.
[Image Credit: Automobile Club de Monaco]