The Monaco Grand Prix

A process of elimination
Monte Carlo, May 23rd

For some strange reason everyone wants to race round the streets of Monte Carlo, probably because of the apparent total illegality of the whole affair and the absurdity of disturbing the peace and quiet of the playboy's playground. Apart from 56 drivers of Renault 5 turbo saloons, 45 Formula 3 drivers and 23 Historic Car drivers, there were 31 drivers of Formula 1 status who wanted to take part in the 40th Grand Prix Automobile de Monaco.

The rules state that the Monaco circuit is only safe for 20 Formula 1 drivers to take part in the race, as a process of elimination was put in motion at 8 a.m. on Thursday May 20th. This involved the drivers of teams who did not score any points in last year's Manufacturers Championship and the list was Mass, Boesel and Villota (March), Serra (Fittipaldi), Jarier and Paletti (Osella) and Warwick and Fabi (Toleman).

While most people were having breakfast these eight practised against the time-keepers and the fastest three moved up into the Grand Prix practice. These proved to be Mass, Warwick and Jarier, though Mass changed cars half-way through due to "mechanical trouble" and afterwards some members of the other teams felt that McDonald had sent the wrong car to be scrutineered and weighed afterwards! Such is the happy state of affairs in Formula One, even among the "rabbits" and "no-hopers" that open accusations were made that Mass did his time in an mulerweight March and switched to an overweight one to finish with and to be weighed. The other can could not be weighed as its gearbox internals were spread out in the pit road and many bits were off the car. It was wheeled back to the paddock in a disassembled state.

There were now 26 drivers to take part in the normal morning test-session and the afternoon qualifying hour for grid positions. The same 26 were to have a second chance on Saturday afternoon and the final selection would dispose of six more drivers to add to the five who failed even to get as far as practice. On Sunday the chosen 20 would eliminate themselves over 76 laps of the circuit until one of them completed the distance and became the winner. It was warm and sunny by 10 a.m. when the serious business got under way for all but Guerrero (Ensign) and Lammers (Theodore). Both teams are what might be called "reluctant bedfellows" in the Mosley/Ecclestone alliance called FOCA and they were not exactly getting help from their Union. With Avon backing out from the nasty taste left after the Imola race, Ensign and Theodore were without tyres, even though they thought Ecclestone would look after them. The Ensign was able to do a few gentle laps on some secondhand tyres left over from a previous race but the Theodore remained in the pits up on jacks with bare wheels on it for all to see.

However, as neither car was likely to affect the outcome of the race, even on super-sticky qualifying Michelins, the whole affair was academic to Grand Prix racing, even if it was life-and-death to Morris Nunn and Teddy Yip.

The serious business was the sight of Nelson Piquet struggling with the BMW-powered Brabham BT50 cars, while Patrese had a nice time with the sleek and well-balanced Cosworth-powered BT49 cars. Rosberg and Daly were adjusting the Williams FW08 cars to the Monegasque circuit, the Talbot team of brand new Ligier JS19 cars were feeling their way and arguing with the scrutineers over the legality of their "skirts" that ran right to the very end of the car, Renault were purring quietly over the way their own electronic fuel-injection system was working, Alfa Romeo had one car to 182B specification, as seen at Zolder, but didn't give it much use, and Ferrari were very low-key and rather sad, understandably so.

The usual mechanical mayhem was spread around, Watson's McLaren had an engine failure, as did Piquet's BMW-engined spare car, and Henton pranged his Tyrrell mildly. With no opportunity to "practise for testing" as at permanent Autodromes, this first morning saw a lot of guesswork being put to the test. Due to various small delays the afternoon qualifying hour started about 15 minutes late, but all was in order, each driver's chosen two sets of tyres had been mated with his number, though few were "champing at the bit" to get on with the job. Alboreto was first away in his Tyrrell and the two Williams drivers waited for the dust to settle or for the traffic to thin out. Watson had to use the spare McLaren and Prost was out in the spare Renault after engine failure on his own car, while Piquet had only one car available as his spare car was undergoing an engine change. Cheever had not gone for long in the new JS19 Talbot before it suffered engine trouble and he took over the old JS17. Henson pranged again, mildly. Arnoux was in cracking form, really enjoying the street racing, as was de Cesaris who was hurling his Alfa Romeo around with abandon coupled with surprising skill.

Patrese was also revelling in the street circuit and these two typical Italian "scratchers" were giving Amoux a run for Fastest Time of the Day. It will be interesting to see if they are as fast on the high-speed circuits later in the season. Lammers was still unable to run the Theodore due to lack of tyres and Guerrero was limited to a handful of laps. The first two cars and two more taken at random were weighed after the hour of qualifying expired with the result: Renault (Arnoux) 592.8 kgs; Alfa Romeo (de Cesaris) 593.8 kg.; March (Mass) 598.6 kg.; Ensign (Guerrero) 586.6 kg. Nobody seemed to be cheating on "disposable ballast" and it was noticed that the Williams FW08 cars and the Lotus 91 cars were still retaining their water tanks, presumably kept full. Brabhams were running with carbon-fibre brake discs.

For the Formula One teams Friday was a day of rest, except for the mechanics who always have plenty of work to do, though in the evening some of them were seen in town in their best suits! Team owners, managers, engineers, trade people, FISA and FOCA officials and many more contrived to occupy the rest day with discussion meetings and if all the talk and hot-air could be harnessed to power a Formula 1 car it would blow the Turbo Renault right into the sea.

Saturday was rather cool, and nasty hazy clouds lurked over the mountain-tops behind Monaco, but it was dry and looked like staying that way. Since the previous practice Renault had brought in their test-car, number RE34B, for Prost to use as he preferred it to the two he had been using, and Williams brought in their test-car, number FW08/2, as a spare car for Daly. The morning progressed reasonably enough, though Piquet stopped in the narrow twisty bit between the Swimming Pool and Rascasse when the fuel-injection system failed and it was all a bit fraught as marshals pushed him round the corner with cars flashing by very close. He returned to the pits and took over his spare Brabham-BMW. One of the new Talbot-Matras had a radio mast on its roll-over bar to send information, not as some unkind people thought to aid location when it broke down!

The Alfa Romeo team were in a bit of disarray, for de Cesaris was plagued by a misfire, thought to be caused by a fault in the fuel-injection system, so the 182B was prepared for him, while Giacomelli stopped before the tunnel with fuel-pump trouble and by the time he walked back to the pits de Cesaris was out in the spare car. The Theodore team had acquired some Goodyear tyres for their car so Jan Lammers could start practising, for what it was worth.

Team Lotus had a busy morning and Mansell was looking quite good until 91/7 had fuel pressure problems and came to rest out on the circuit. The Birmingham lad ran all the way back to the pits and jumped into his spare car, which was the brand new 91/9, and promptly lapped even faster than before! Team-mate de Angelis was totally unimpressive, hampered by niggling problems on both his cars.

In the McLaren pits the Ebel clock and watch people had erected a huge clock that they set to zero when the session started and it ticked off the minutes and seconds to show how much time had been used up and how much was left — very useful for those around the pits. Lauda and Watson seemed to be just going round and round, making little impression on the overall scene. After a trouble-free practice on Thursday Renault were suffering all manner of small problems and while Arnoux stopped out on the circuit with electrical trouble, Prost was not getting in any seriously fast laps.

In the afternoon, for the qualifying hour from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., the sun tried to come out but it was not exactly typical Cote d'Azur weather and once again all the drivers had their marked tyres at the ready though enthusiasm to start using them up was so small that Lammers (Theodore) and Warwick (Toleman) opened proceedings and hardly anyone noticed. Daly was in the "test" Williams and Rosberg was in FW08/3 and when they did get going they staggered their outings no that as Daly came back into the pits, Kosberg set off.

Both Brabham drivers started off in their spare cars, Patrese buoyant and confident with his Cosworth power and Piquet resigned to the spasmodic power of the BMW turbocharged engine. After the morning troubles Renault were not too confident of their position and there were anxious faces in the pits. The Alfa Romeo team could not trace the fault on the car of de Cesaris so he took over the 182B, with its narrow sidepods but Giacomelli's car was back to good health and really singing along. Patrese was getting more and more confident, no doubt aided by not having Nelson Piquet overshadowing him, for the Brabham team-leader was nowhere in the picture with the Brabham-BMW. For a long time it was Patrese holding fastest lap and with Giacomelli and de Cesaris not far behind it was beginning to look like an Italian benefit.

With only ten minutes left on the big Ebel clock Arnoux was sitting in his Renault with a look tenseness and concentration on his face, while the placid Gerard Larrousse murmured words of encouragement to him over the intercom. It was obvious that Arnoux was wound up very tight, ready for an all-out last-minute effort to regain pole-position from Patrese, who had recorded 1 min. 23.791 sec. With a final word to his little French driver, Larrousse nodded to the mechanic to start up the turbocharged V6 engine, with the air-line plugged into the rear of the car, and as the flat-sounding Renault engine stuttered into life Arnoux flicked the visor down over his "glazed" eyes and moved off as Larrousse unplugged the intercom. It was really like Monegasque roulette, for on his second set of tyres Arnoux could only hope for one really scorching lap at maximum adhesion and the luck of the game would decide whether he got a clear run or got baulked by a slower car. Luck was on the side of the Regie Renault team and in the closing minutes of qualifying Arnoux recorded 1 min. 23.281 sec., a whole half a second quicker than Patrese's time and 2 1/2 seconds quicker than the best time in 1981. The tenseness in the Renault team evaporated and everyone smiled, "little Rene" had come up trumps "pour la France".

That was it. It was all over bar the actual race and Baldi (Arrows), Lammers (Theodore), Mass (March), Warwick (Toleman), Jarier (Osella) and Guerrero (Ensign) had failed to get onto the back of the grid so they joined the five drivers who had not even got as far as official practice. The 31 had now been whittled down to 20. At the post-qualifying weighing of cars picked at random the Arrows team were caught cheating, for a lump of lead weighing 5.6 kilogrammes was found loose in the cockpit of Surer's car. It was wrapped in plastic foam and not fixed to the car, as required by the regulations so the team were fined £300. The irony of it was that when the car was weighed without the loose ballast it was comfortably over the minimum weight. As someone remarked, "some people can't even cheat honestly".

The annual F3 race took place after the final Formula 1 practice and was a benefit for French drivers, only one Brit getting into the race, and he was Irishman Tommy Byrne, if you see what I mean.

Sunday morning was nice and sunny and after the Historic gentlemen with their historic cars had put on a very pleasant 10-lap race that satisfied them as much as it satisfied us, there was a parade of Alfa Romeo competition cars through the ages. The Milanese firm produced their P2, their Tipo B "monoposto", which Piero Taruffi drove, and their Tipo 159 which Baron de Graffenried drove. Private owners provided examples of 2.3-litre Mon.a, 1,500 c.c. and 1,750 c.c. supercharged sports, RL Targa Florio and 8C-2300 and they all went round and round while preparations were being made for the final 30 minutes of testing by the F1 cars before the 40th Grand Prix of Monaco began.

Before the warm-up began the Alfa Romeo team took their three cars to the official weighbridge and checked their weights, the spare car having been put back to normal wide sidepod configuration. Daly was back in FW08/4, Prost was in the "test" car RE34B, the Brabhams had dispensed with their carbon-fibre brake discs and fitted normal cast iron ones and Pironi was in Ferrari 059. Apart from Cheever having the inner bearing on the right-side driveshaft break up on his JS19 all went pretty smoothly, and Patrese was confident he was going to win, Arnoux was hoping he was going to win and Rosberg was going to try to win. The warm-up had been done in full race trim, with full petrol tanks, race tyres and optimum aerodynamic settings rather than freak "one-lap" settings. The start was due at 3.30 p.m. by which time Monaco was very full and just about every vantage point was taken, including windows, balconies, roof tops and boat decks. The Prince Rainier and his royal party arrived to sit in the usual royal box positioned on the dullest part of the circuit, opposite the pits, but by the start, and then the cars left the paddock for a lap round to the assembly grid.

The two Williams cars were first out and whistled round, back into the pit lane, and round for another lap before lining up. Laffite in his Talbot JS19 and Salazar in his ATS also got in a second lap, and then all 20 cars were lined up on the grid. The morning sun and blue sky had given way to a mountain gloom by mid-day, but a cool breeze was preventing it settling too low and too solid. On the grid we had 12 cars powered by Cosworth V8 engines, two by V12 Alfa Romeo engines, two by V12 Matra engines, two by turbocharged V6 Renault engines, one with a turbocharged BMW engine and one with a turbocharged V6 Ferrari engine.

Arnoux led them all round on the parade lap, then paused on the starting grid, the red light came on, engine notes rose to a shattering noise, the green shone and the 20 cars scrabbled stir the Ste. Devote "chicane". Miraculously everyone got through and Arnoux (Renault) led them all up the hill, de Angelis making a nonsense of his start and being last up to Casino Square. When Arnoux shot through the "chicane" on the harbour front he was already so far ahead that it looked as though there had been a pile-up in the tunnel!

All was well and they all went through at the end of the first lap, in the order Arnoux, Giacomelli, Prost, Patrese, Pironi, de Cesaris, Alboreto and Rosberg up towards the front. Arnoux was setting a searing pace and literally running away from the rest of them, or Giacomelli was holding them up! On lap three Prost got past the Alfa Romeo and pulled away and as "little Bruno" started the climb up the hill to the Casino on lap five his car suddenly slowed when a driveshaft universal broke up. He limped round to the pits with the self-locking differential working overtime but that was the end his race, so now Patrese was third followed by Pironi, de Cesaris, Alboreto Rosberg, Mansell and Daly. The two Renaults were spaced out but in total command of the situation and they drove round with their characteristic flat-sounding exhaust notes exuding no emotion whatever, just relentless efficiency.

There was only one Cosworth V8 in the first five, which was in Patrese's Brabham BT49D for he was followed by the turbocharged Ferrari V6 of Pironi and the V12 Alfa Romeo of de Cesaris. It was Alboreto leading the hard-core of Cosworth engine users, for behind him he had Rosberg (Williams), Mansell (Lotus), Daly (Williams), Watson (McLaren), Winkelhock (ATS) and Lauda (McLaren). Then came Laffite and Cheever in their V12 Matra-powered Talbots with Piquet sandwiched between them in the lone Brabham-BMW turbo, making a disconsolate trio. The odds and ends at the back were lucky to be in the race at all.

As Arnoux swept through the tight corners of the swimming pool complex the tail slid out on the first right-hander, he tried to correct but there wasn't enough steering lock and he spun gently down the centre of the road, stalling the engine as he did so. To try and restart with the "one-shot" air supply on board was hopeless and he had to sit there while everyone streamed past. He climbed out and the car was lifted out of the way by one of the huge cranes stationed strategically around the circuit. His lead had been short but very sweet and now Prost was in command and everyone moved up a place on the lap charts. The scene settled into a rather dull procession now, for fast as he goes Alain Prost does not stir the emotions when you watch him driving. Lauda had found a may past Winkelhock, moving up a place and on his 23rd lap Salazar switched everything off and coasted to a stop opposite the Chatham Bar on the hill, undoing his seat harness and climbing out before the car had stopped. Without warning the cockpit fire-extinguisher had activated itself and Salazar was in a haze of extinguisher vapour. As far as he knew he was on fire, why else would the automatic system have gone off? Fire marshals appeared at the ready and it was soon obvious what had happened but it was the end of the Chilean's race.

We were just over quarter distance and were down to 17 cars. Prost and his followers were now lapping the slower cars, among them some drivers who should have been trying a bit harder. On lap 32 de Angelis (Lotus) was in the way and was reluctant to move over and he held up Prost for most of the lap, so that Patrese and Pironi closed up. Round the swimming pool it got a bit tense and rough, but Prost and Patrese got by all right but Pironi took the little nose cone off the front of the Ferrari as he scrabbled by. It was now World Champion Nelson Piquet's turn to suffer the ignominy of being lapped and he resented it more than de Angelis had, or else he was deliberately being obstructive to assist his team-mate who was in second place, which is very unlikely. It took three laps for him to get out of the way and once clear Prost pulled smartly away from his pursuers, who were still in the order Patrese, Pironi, de Cesaris and Rosberg for Alboreto had fallen back.

After a long gap there came a genteel old ladies' tea-party comprising Mansell, Daly, Watson and Lauda, but as the leading Lotus was spraying out oil mist the Dubliner in the Williams let the Belfast man in the McLaren go by and collect some of it. Lauda just sat behind them all, unhappy that his engine seemed down on power. Meanwhile Cheever had run his Matra V12 to a standstill, completely out of oil, Laffite had given up in disgust and disillusionment with his new Talbot JS19 and Winkelhock's ATS stopped with transmission failure, so we were down to 13 cars.

Still the procession behind the Renault continued. Barely noticed was the disappearance of Watson as he went into the pits, to stay there for good with ignition trouble and then de Cesaris muffed the gear-change on his Alfa Romeo, the revs went sky-high and took the edge off everything so that he began to lose ground and Rosberg closed up on him. We were now well past the half-way mark and the misty clouds on the mountain-tops were spilling down all over the town and the harbour and we might just as well have been in Liverpool. Mansell clobbered a guard-rail with his Lotus 91 and had to stop for a wheel change, but rejoined the race with gusto and his Italian team-mate's gloom was deepened by an exhaust manifold pipe breaking, losing him power and sounding awful. Lauda gave up when his engine felt as though it was seizing and Piquet had gone from the scene with a rough running engine and a damaged gearbox, the rather sudden power characteristics of the BMW engine playing havoc with the transmission which has been developed for the smooth power and torque-spread of the Cosworth DFV. We were down to eleven.

As lap 60 approached, which meant 16 more to go, Prost was still in total command, Patrese was still second, then came Pironi followed by de Cesaris and Rosberg, the Finn unable to get by the Alfa Romeo and deciding to hang on and wait. A long way back came Alboreto, followed by Daly, then de Angelis moping along with Mansell making up ground rapidly. Henton and Surer were still circulating, the Tyrrell driver having been into the pits as well as going up the escape road at Ste. Devote while the Arrows driver was limping along with a very sick engine. From the gloom overhead spots of rain began to fall and everyone held their breath. If rain developed it would make the already oily circuit like a skating rink and the organisers became anxious, though the Clerk of the Course insisted they would see the 76 laps out. Although the spots of rain increased they did not develop into a downpour and did not visibly wet the warm pavements but they turned the circuit into an ice-rink. Rosberg made a mistake at the harbour "chicane" and hit the kerb with his right front wheel which took the spring operating pull-rod off its pivoting link at the lower end and he was out. He had been trying desperately to do something about de Cesaris at the time. Alboreto's Tyrrell retired with a suspension breakage on lap 70 and we were down to nine with six laps logo.

De Angelis was being lapped again and making things difficult once more in a typically petulant manner and Daly slid wildly at the Tabac corner and clouted the guard-rails. The centre pillar and rear aerofoil were snapped off the Williams, the gearbox oil pump was torn off and the casing cracked, but he still had the engine running so he drove gingerly away uncertain of how much damage had been done. Prost was about to lap the Irishman for the first time as he lapped de Angelis for the second and as the three of them went into the Ste. Devote "chicane" the Lotus was elbowed brusquely out of the way, but it meant that the Renault hit the guard-rail with quite a clang with his left-rear wheel. Up the hill Daly pulled over and waved the leader through as he was on his seventy-fourth lap. He never completed it, for as he left the harbour "chicane" the Renault tail suddenly whipped round and the car ran head-first into the barriers on the right of the road. It rebounded across the road, hit the barriers that side and cannoned back into the middle of the road. Bits and pieces flew off in all directions, as they should to dissipate the kinetic energy, and Prost stepped from the battered, but intact, monocoque unscathed but for a slight foot injury. And now there were eight.

This left Patrese to complete lap 74 in the lead. followed by Pironi, de Cesaris, Daly, de Angelis and Mansell, with Henson and Surer limping along. But it was not over yet. Two more laps to go on the ice-rink. When Patrese rounded the Mirabeau hairpin the tail slid out, he held the car in a full-lock slide down the hill, very nearly got control, but then gyrated slowly over the kerb of the apex of the Loews hairpin and slid helplessly with a dead engine to a stop across the road, muttering some choice Italian swear words to himself as Pironi tip-toed by in the Ferrari into the lead and de Cesaris did likewise with the Alfa Romeo into second place. The marshals pushed the Brabham away from its dangerous resting place and Patrese took advantage of the following slope to free-wheel on down the hill, snicking into gear and driving on. Into the last lap went Pironi, not believing his luck, but with fingers crossed because the Ferrari engine had been hiccoughing on the last lap or two, de Angels followed him but up the hill the Alfa Romeo engine sputtered and died and he coughed his way to the summit out of petrol and justifiably in tears. Patrese started the last lap in third place, thanking his patron-saint for a little bit of luck and by the time he was down to the sea-front he was back in second place having passed the stricken Alfa Romeo.

In the tunnel he passed the Ferrari stationary with no petrol to its fuel injectors, and totally bewildered by it all the Brabham driver arrived at the finish to get the chequered flag. Meanwhile Daly was struggling round with his gearbox overheating and one of the bearing housings actually melting and as it all seized up he ground to a stop just before Rascassc, within a few hundred yards of the finish. It still was not over for Nigel Mansell was driving on the slippery surface as if he was on a dry road and he caught and passed his team-mate as they went up the hill for their last time, a lap down on the leader. Henton and Surer limped home and there were only five cars mobile at the finish, of which only one had covered the 76 laps. The process of elimination was nearly complete. — D.S. J.