Thinking of Niki in Monaco

The 66th Monaco Grand Prix gets underway in sombre mood following the death on Monday night of the legendary Austrian racer, Niki Lauda at the age of seventy.

In total, there have been 77 editions of this event, the earliest dating back 90 years to 14th April 1929, the race won by British driver William Grover-Williams. The race has always been run on the same streets of the Principality, although the layout and length of the circuit has been slightly changed eleven times. The current length is 3.337 kilometres and Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow has nine wins to its name at this track.

The debut. The first Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix was held in 1950, the second ever race in the history of the championship and the one in which Scuderia Ferrari made its debut. 19 cars started, but the race ended for ten of them as early as the opening lap. Incredibly, a wave came over the harbour wall at Tabac corner, which caused Giuseppe Farina to crash in the Alfa Romeo. He was hit by the Maserati of Jose Froilan Gonzalez, causing a road block which several of the chasing pack could not avoid, causing a major collision. Juan Manuel Fangio won for Alfa Romeo, with Alberto Ascari second in a Ferrari.

Trintignant and Lauda. The next race in the Principality took place in 1955 and it was won by a Ferrari 625 driven by Maurice Trintignant. The Frenchman had a tidy driving style and profited from the errors of others, having started from ninth on the grid, which is the second furthest place down the grid from which any driver has won. While the Scuderia enjoyed plenty of success elsewhere in the years that followed, it had to wait no less than twenty years for it’s next victory in the streets of Monte Carlo when, in 1975, none other than Niki Lauda won at the wheel of the 312 T, a feat he repeated the following year.

Jody and Gilles. The 1979 race featured an all-Ferrari front row with Jody Scheckter taking pole ahead of Gilles Villeneuve, but only the South African managed to hang on to his starting position to win. The Canadian’s turn came two years later when he passed Alan Jones in the Williams with just four laps to go. This spectacular win, the first for a turbo-engined car at Monaco was worthy of a story in the American “Time” magazine, featuring Gilles and the number 27 Ferrari on the cover, an honour only previously given to Jim Clark.

Three for Michael. There would be no more Ferrari wins until Michael Schumacher’s 1997 victory. In 1996, the German put a Maranello car on pole but failed to finish what was a crazy race, with only four cars seeing the flag, including the Ligier of winner Olivier Panis, who had started from 14th. The following year, Schumacher produced a master class in the wet at the wheel of the F310B. He finished 53 seconds ahead of Rubens Barrichello in the Stewart and over a minute in front of his team-mate Eddie Irvine. Two years later, Schumacher and Irvine finished first and second, with 2001 seeing Michael take his fifth win in the Principality, equalling Graham Hill’s total, just one short of record man Ayrton Senna.

Sebastian. In 2017, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen monopolised the front row, with Sebastian going on to win, beating Kimi by a little over three seconds. It was the German’s second win on the streets of the Principality.

Charles. The only Monegasque driver to finish on the podium in his home race was Louis Chiron who finished third in 1950, in the second ever F1 World Championship event. That’s where Charles Leclerc finished in Bahrain this year and there’s no doubt the driver of the number 16 SF90 would love to be on the podium in front of his home crowd this weekend.

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