The fifth Monaco Grand Prix would be a landmark event, in that the grid would be determined by practice times rather than ballot – an idea borrowed from America. Eighty years on, it has proved quite durable.
It was the first time in 1933 that all major teams had entered the same event, although one big name was lost before the start when Rudolf Caracciola crashed his Alfa Romeo after brake failure obliged him to tackle Tabac at too ambitious a speed. The German sustained hip injuries that would keep him out of action for more than a year.
Achille Varzi became the first driver to qualify for a Grand Prix pole and would engage in a wonderful duel with Tazio Nuvolari’s Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Monza.
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It always looked likely to be close: after 20 laps, Varzi headed Nuvolari, Baconin Borzacchini, Marcel Lehoux and Philippe Étancelin – and barely five seconds covered the group. Lehoux soon dropped out with transmission trouble and Nuvolari would be delayed by a spin, but he recovered briskly and the contest became a two-way duel.
The race lasted 100 laps – and remarkably after 99 the outcome remained in doubt. On the final ascent towards Massenet, however, the top two revved their engines a little too hard: the Alfa expired and Varzi went on to win by a couple of minutes, from the vanquished Nuvolari’s team-mate Borzacchini.
There’s a popular mantra that overtaking is impossible around Monaco’s tortuous track, but that had still to be preached: in 1933, Nuvolari led for 56 laps and Varzi 44. They swapped the lead 21 times. SA
About 100 Greatest Grands Prix | From the editor Damien Smith
The Grand Prix motor races we can never forget…
This was a special one-off magazine, dedicated to our love of Grand Prix racing and produced by the same team that brings you Motor Sport each month.
It seemed a good idea: whittle down 107 years of racing history to come up with 100 GPs that could be considered the ‘greatest’ – then rank them in meritocratic order. By week three, the old grey matter was beginning to ache…
Defining greatness was the first task. There were the obvious races – the wheel-to-wheel duels, the comeback classics. But there were also individual performances of supreme dominance, races that might not necessarily have been the most exciting to witness. Greatness goes way beyond thrill-a-minute, we decided.
Choosing which races should make the list was hard enough; ranking the top 100 in some sort of order was even tougher, especially when it came to the crunch: which should be number one? We never did agree unanimously on the ‘greatest’, but if the magazine was to be finished a decision had to be taken. And that’s what I’m here for!
Will you agree with our choice and order? Probably not. But if steam begins to issue from your ears, take a deep breath. In any exercise such as this, there is no definitive list – because there can’t be. Our top 100 is based on opinion, nothing more, designed to be a bit of fun and to spark good-natured debate among fans of the world’s greatest sport.
You can download 100 Greatest Grands Prix in PDF form in the Motor Sport app.