May 21, 2014 (F1plus/Katie Grimmett).- When one thinks of Monte Carlo, certain drivers immediately come to mind and join the list of greats to conquer the challenging twists and turns of the street circuit.
In recent years, Monaco has become synonymous with Mark Webber and his natural affinity with the narrow bends. One could also add Sir Stirling Moss to a list of honourable mentions for his four wins in the Principality. And what about Graham Hill, whose five Monaco wins put him second on the all time list?
Arguably, however, there was no era as dominant as the one offered by Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. Between 1984 and 1993, not one driver could dethrone the legendary rivals. Senna holds more wins than any other driver with six champagne celebrations. Those ten years were quickly cemented in the record books as the one-time teammates battled it out for Monaco glory.
Prost won in style in 1994, taking a particularly memorable victory in the dominant McLaren MP4-4 model. Senna too enjoyed a close battle with Nigel Mansell in 1992, a demonstration of wheel-to-wheel racing at its very best – the unpredictability of the street circuit scored the Brazilian his fifth Monaco win.
Post the Senna-Prost era of dominance, one other race comes to mind. It is 2004 and Jarno Trulli is driving a Renault. As the Italian arrives in Monaco, he had just three podiums to his credit so imagine the surprise when his Renault R24 lined up on pole. As the race got under way in the Principality, commotion ensued further down the grid. Ralf Schumacher’s own fight for the win ended prematurely leaving Trulli and his teammate, Fernando Alonso to contest the hard-fought victory.
It was to be Trulli’s only win to date, a brief flash of brilliance and proof that anything really can happen in Monaco.
Lewis Hamilton’s second place finish during his 2007 rookie season was impressive but not enough for the ultimate perfectionist.
His victory would come a year later whilst at the helm of the MP4-23 amidst damp conditions, which further emphasised the struggles Monaco can bring. As others made mistakes around him, Hamilton capitalised by changing his strategy and increasing his fuel load – fortunately for the current championship leader, the team’s quick thinking gifted him a crucial win.
This year, the battle with Nico Rosberg in qualifying could be speculator as two former winners fight for the title advantage and racing pride.
So what of our 2014 line up and their chances?
Monaco 2013 was the weekend of Rosberg and his car is certainly capable of making it the first back-to-back victory since Fernando Alonso’s reign in 2006/7. Having spent much of his childhood in Monte Carlo, the streets of the Principality hold particularly special memories for the twenty-eight-year-old German. His driving style has often been compared to that of Prost as both are very precise and calculating in nature.
It remains to be seen whether the pure driving style, like that of Hamilton and Senna, outweighs the tactical advantage Rosberg’s style may bring.
Further down the grid, Alonso is certainly a stand-out name in his own right and is the only driver of the current incumbent with two wins.
Alonso won his first Moanco GP in 2006 for Renault (LAT Photo)
However, his Ferrari is unlikely to take him the victory this year – the team’s last win in Monte Carlo came back in 2001 and the F14T has been below par so this season.
Perhaps it will be the year Sergio Perez fights the difficult circuit and finally emerges victorious? It is fair to say that the Mexican has struggled in Monaco since making his F1 debut in 2011.
He did not start the 2011 race, which was eventually won by Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull. His crash in qualifying saw him sit out the remaining races and forfeit his drive for Canada as he continued his recovery. His chances at redemption in 2012 and 2013 saw two finishes outside the points. For Force India’s new driver, the psychological battle will be his toughest.
Daniil Kvyat will also need to rely on his confidence and simulator runs with Red Bull if he is to negotiate the narrow street circuit in style.
The Russian is the only driver on the grid to have never raced in the Principality – the series rookie was not part of either GP2 or Formula Renault 3.5 support races. In fact, the nineteen-year-old has never even been to the circuit so he is somewhat of an unknown entity as the weekend approaches. His Toro Rosso teammate, Jean Eric Vergne has one points finish to his credit.
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg inevitably enter the weekend as the two outstanding favourites for the win but, as Jarno Trulli demonstrated, nothing is ever guaranteed in the Principality.
As Formula 1 prepares its return to the most glamorous of circuits, the drivers get ready to place their names in the history books – and what a history Monaco has.