Monaco 1961 has been hailed as perhaps the most brilliant of all of Stirling Moss’s 16 grand prix victories, as he triumphed over the crack Scuderia Ferrari squad and its phalanx of powerful sharknose 156s in his year-old, privately- owned Lotus 18.
The result was impressive, but it laid bare the genius of Moss in full flight, back against the wall and responding with almost three hours of flat-out, on-the-limit virtuosity to keep himself just out of reach of pursuers, armed with around 25 per cent more horsepower than he enjoyed from the four- cylinder Climax behind his shoulders. He couldn’t afford to let a red car get within striking distance, as it would surely use its superior acceleration out of one of the slow corners to place its driver in Moss’s slipstream. Establishing and maintaining that gap required qualifying levels of focus and concentration for lap after hot, arduous lap, staying flat-out between the unyielding walls and barriers for almost all of the 100 laps – that and a few beautifully judged pressure moves on backmarkers that minimised his time loss.
In the duel between Moss and the most tenacious of his Ferrari-mounted pursuers, Richie Ginther, they each lapped 2.8sec under Moss’s pole position time. This was only 0.1sec slower than the previous year’s fastest lap – set by a 2.5-litre car, whereas this was the first race of the new 1.5-litre formula.