MONACO GRAND PRIX 1984
Nothing new in Monaco. The yachts still laze around in the harbour, the women are more and more beautiful, there are more Rolls and Ferraris per square metre than ever, the police is polite but efficient and the circuit keeps its unforgiving nature, the heart of its' evident charm. Monaco pardons nothing. The slightest error in driving and it's the guardrail. Without further ado. The list of all those who suffered misadventures during qualifying would be far too long: Alboreto, Arnoux, De Angelis, Hesnault, Alliot, Baldi, Bellof, Warwick, Senna, etc...
The award for best accident would have to be shared between Winkel hock and, Brundle. The German was unable to stop his car from stealing away from him on Thursday. It happened up there, where the treacherous bump at the Casino seems to exist only for-the purpose of throwing accelerating Formula One cars off balance.As for Martin Brundle, he lost all hopes of qualifying when he lost control, along with two wheels, of his Tyrrell in the rapid lefthander of the Bureau de Tabac. The Tyrrell slid a long time on its right side before coming to a halt. Martin, slightly groggy, extricated himself from the car, his helmet and right sleeve covered with black, proof to the fact that they had been dragged along the ground. The bathtub type cockpits are probably not the safest around... McLarens, as everyone knows, are never favoured to do well at Monaco. Alain Prost wasted no time in burying that myth when he took pole position, which he attributed (was he being modest or sly?) to luck: "I only had to overtake two cars in my quick lap, without any trouble. At Monaco, that's unheard of." Prost did a total of 8 qualifying laps. On Thursday, the session was cut short for him when he inadvertently hit the car's on-off switch. On Saturday, he didn't let uncertainty rule for long. Mansell was the only driver who even got close to the time which clinched the pole for Prost. Nigel, superbly adroit and hugely determined at Monaco, a circuit he loves, got his time in with only one set of tyres on his race car, an engine failure having immobilized his spare car. Incidentally, he had so complained of congestion on the circuit on Thursday that the Team Lotus mechanics, always ready for a laugh, had installed a horn on his car for Saturday qualifying.
De Angelis, who made a bad choice in shock absorbers, was well behind his teammate. As was Lauda, in fact, and there were murmurings in the pits to the effect, that Prost had been using a new type of turbo prepared for qualifying. No difference for the two Ferrari drivers, on the other hand, who were both on the second row of the grid, and their colleagues from Renault, sitting right behind them.Alboreto, who was quickest on Thursday, had a scrape at Sainte Devote while Arnoux watched as his turbo pressure plumetted at the end of the session.
De Cesaris was in front of Piquet, which is a sure sign of the undoubted progress being made by the Ligier team. One can not say the same about Williams, where Rosberg was only 10th, breaking two turbos, a very rare event indeed on the Monaco circuit.
At the rear of the grid, Corrado Fabi, who hasn't seen competition in quite some time, had the merit of qualifying in one session after having had intercooler and engine problems on the Thursday. At Osella, Ghinzani's qualification was celebrated like a victory of itself. Bellof, the last man to qualify, spent the last half-hour in the pits anxiously waiting to see what his playmates were up to. A mere tenth of a second faster than Surer had made him the only driver defending the honour of the Cosworth engine on Sunday. As with both Senna and Palmer, he had never raced at Monaco until the first day of qualifying.
Red flag, chequered flag, that's it. After 31 laps. The crowd is incensed. Rosberg climbs out of his car and says, "Not a lap too soon. " Senna, who has been gaining up to five seconds a lap on the race winner Prost, can't wait to get off the podium; he is sick in soul. Mansell can't believe the price he paid for a "little mistake". And the rain keeps falling, falling. Not since 1972, when Beltoise won, has there been such a down pour. Conspiracies aside, Jacky Ickx, Clerk' of the Course, is right to end the race: who will take the responsibility if something worse happened?
For the bad has already happened: atthe usual place in Monaco, at the start. Warwick is rammed by Arnoux, flying over the kerb. Warwick hits the tyre barrier; he bounces back; T ambay hits him on the rebound and ends up with a fracture just short of the knee joint: at least three weeks out of racing. De Angelis and Patrese stop behind them but manage to get clear, Elio to work his way through the spray to an honourable sixth, Patrese to drop out after a brush with Hesnault and an eventual spin.
Otherwise, it is Prost who at the start makes it first into Sainte Devote. Mansell, second on the staggered grid, tried it briefly on the outside, but tucked safely in. It is soon obvious, however, that Prost is not going to have an easy time of it. Mansell stays a mere couple of seconds in his wake and on lap 10 makes it past going up the hill. He leads for the next five laps and then hits the guardrail at a fairly innocent spot his rear ends starts shuddering, his rear wing is bent and shortly afterwards he spins again, this time out of the race. The order then, when Prost regains the lead, is Prost, Lauda, Senna, Arnoux (team-mate Alboreto is well behind after a spin and finishes 7th), Rosberg and Bellof, and it is Senna that everyone is watching. His Toleman is starting to bite deeply into Prost's once-majestic lead of 33s. As we watch that lead shrink and others slow down or drop out after brave races in impossible conditions (Ghinzani, for instance, with water-logged turbos; Piquet with yet another set of problems in his engine; Winkelhock after a doughty fight with Rosberg), it seems entirely possible the Brazilian will catch Prost, who is having vibration problems and a mysterious ailment in his left front wheel. The two come into sight of each other, the flag falls. It is unfair on Senna, on Bellof who finishes third. But unfair only in the context of a freakish race. Prost's other main challenger seemed to be Lauda, but Lauda spun and the two McLarens were split, the one condemned, the other ekeing out a narrow and controversial half-point victory. Arnoux made it into fourth to salvage something for Ferrari out of the incident that put Renault out into the cold and the very, very wet.
HALF POINTS FOR FULL EFFORTS
IF IT WEREN'T FOR THE STEADY BEATING OF THE RAIN OUTSIDE, YOU COULD HEAR A FLY BUZZ
IN THE TOLEMAN MOTOR HOME SILENCE CAN BE ELOQUENT AT times, when it's expressing an emotion that's more powerful than disappointment. The members of the British team are taking badly the stop of the race at the 31st lap. Just as Ayrton Senna was about to devour Prost who was obviously in trouble. Only the boss, Ted Toleman, hints occasionally at the anger they are all feeling: "Did you see Ayrtonls face on the podium? He was obviously disgusted by what happened. " The Brazilian is nowhere to be found. No doubt trying to rid himself of the bitterness he must be feeling. For Ted T oleman and his team, Alain Prost's victory will forever be tainted by an awful suspicion. Even if they have to admit that the rain was coming down twice as strong when Jacky Ickx took the decision we all know.
And yet, at the end of the race, the hero of the day was making his appearance without grumbling at the traditional press conference, held in the little theatre which doubles as the press-room at Monaco. Under fire from pressmen and sitting alongside the race winner he was handicapped slightly by his lack of French, but he fielded some difficult questions - and matched Prost's every little excuse with an equally convincing one of his own - with impressive aplomb.
Senna, as is already know, is a man who has a positive idea of where he is going. On the face of it however, Monaco had not looked like being the right place for him to demonstrate his abilities, at least not until the clouds descended on the Principality at dawn on Sunday. After 31 laps of the race, though, he was catching Prost's Mclaren at the rate of six seconds a lap. When Prost stopped at the end of lap 32, Senna was only feet behind him as they crossed the line, and who knows what would have been the result if the race had been allowed to go on for another lap?
At lunchtime, a few hours earlier, he had not been ready to forecast any fireworks. Sitting with his Portugese adviser Domingos Piedade under the canopy of the Toleman motorhome he sounded happier than he had all weekend, despite the rain. "We had a lot of understeer through practice and we expected it to be worse in this morning's rainy warm-up session."
In fact, the opposite happened. In dry qualifying his 13th fastest time had raised a few eyebrows, but in the wet the Toleman Hart had growled its way round the streets 7th fastest, quicker than both of the Ferraris and one of the Renaults; without using the softest of the available Michelin rain tyres, "We did quite a good time with the harder rain tyres and the car seemed very nicely balanced! so for the race we chose the softest available tyre, just like the other Michelin users."
Plainly the soft Michelins were to play a major role in the afternoon's performance. later, under questioning in the press-room, he was presented with an oppertunity to rubbish the team's early-season supplier, Pirelli. After all that bad blood between Toleman and Pirelli at Imola a month ago it might have been expected. But Ayrton replied like a gentleman. "In the dry I would not have been able to make a race like this one either on Michelin or Pirelli tyres. I can only say that under conditions like today's you don't need power."
It certainly wasn't power that took him past all those vastly more experienced drivers early in the race: Laffite, Winkelhock and Rosberg all in the first ten laps. Alboreto would have been next to go if he hadn't spun off at Mirabeau and Arnoux was so amazed to see the party-coloured Toleman gobbling up his Ferrari; that he did his best to cream the Brazilian into the wall on the inside of the same corner as Senna came up to pass him on lap 13.
That brave move put him into 3rd place, closing fast on Lauda. And the Austrian's double crown was dented after a duel that had lasted only three laps when Ayrton showed him the untidy-looking nose of the Toleman as they splashed past the pits to start lap 19. In the Toleman pit there were hearts in the mouths of those whe remembered Derek Warwick trying a similar move at the same place, and the accident that followedit, exactly a year ago. But the Brazilian was through cleanly, and all that stood between him and the lead was Prost and the 35 second cushion that the McLaren had built up.
By then Prost was having trouble with his brakes, enabling Senna to get within striking distance after a 12 lap pursuit. As they sat side by side in the spotlight afterwardst howevert Senna was obviously irritated by Prost's explanations. "My brakes were not perfect either," he said, " and there was something coming loose in my gear linkage." He also revealed that his back had been burned by leaking fuel, "although you don't notice the pain when you're fighting... "
Six attempts to qualify, one of them unsuccessful, a point in his second GP (South Africa and now a 2nd place at Monaco. Is there no end to this stream of talented Brazilians? On Sunday in the streets the worst of the weather brought out the best of Tolemanl's new boy. It was a breath of fresh air which they - and he - needed as the season enters what promises to be its most difficult period for the low-budget team from Witney. Even if the rule book decreed that they could only claim half points.