Frozen in Time: 1984 Monaco Grand Prix
Monaco Grand Prix
“I think we are watching the arrival of Ayrton Senna as a truly outstanding talent in Grand Prix racing.”
James Hunt, while commentating at the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix
It was atrocious weather in Monaco, enough to stun F1 viewers, racers, and Murray Walker and James Hunt who were commentating that Sunday. The clouds hung low, the yachts were silent, and the prestigious street circuit of Monaco was treacherous. The tunnel was dry, compared to the wet circuit outside, and the racers had insisted that the change in surface was nothing short of dangerous. The start was delayed and the racers huddled under their umbrellas as a fire tender watered the road inside the tunnel.
The race finally began with Alain Prost at pole and Nigel Mansell following in second place. Niki Lauda was in 8th place, while Nelson Piquet was in 9th and Keke Rosberg was at 10th. Ayrton Senna was in 13th place, racing the Toleman. The cars weaved their way through the street circuit, Prost at an advantage in the lead, while the others tried to peer past the blinding spray and race, while minding those fearsome barricades.
Derrick Warwick and Patrick Tambay were the first to fall victim to the weather and the circuit as they spun out of control and into the barricades right at the start. They wouldn’t be the only ones.
The weather worsened, but Prost set great pace, increasing the distance between him and Mansell. Lauda played catch-up as he raced the two Ferraris and fought for a podium position. Meanwhile, behind, ignored by the commentators, Senna had climbed from 13th to 8th. By Lap 11, Mansell had nearly caught up with Prost and Senna was battling Rosberg for 6th position. Lap 14 and Senna had disposed off the Ferrari in front of him and had set his sights on Lauda. Meanwhile up ahead, Prost had a spot of luck, as Mansell spun off the track and into the barricades, damaging his wing. He was out of the race, as was Piquet a short while later. It looked like the one to survive the slippery Monaco street circuit would win… nay finish the race.
Soon Senna crossed Lauda off his list in, as the commentators described it, a “brave and skillful” move, and swung into 2nd place. It was time to lay siege on Prost, rain or no rain. Five laps later, even as Senna chased down the Frenchman, Lauda fell victim to the wet surface, spinning his car and coming to a halt. It would be a long walk in the rain back to the pits, with a brief stop to peer into Warwick’s stalled car.
Senna though was focused on reducing the gap, as dramatically shortened the lead from 31 seconds to 21 seconds. Meanwhile behind Stefan Bellof in the Tyrrell-Cosworth had made his way up from 20th to 4th place. This promised to be a fight of the season. But, suddenly Prost started waving his hand – he wanted the race to stop. It seemed like the conditions were becoming worse. Controversially, the race was stopped on Lap 31. A relieved Prost claimed first place, with an angry Senna in second. Bellof took 3rd, but was later disqualified and Ferrari’s Rene Arnoux claimed that position.
The Ayrton Moment
This proved to be a landmark race in Ayrton Senna’s career – not only did it muffle the naysayers and doubters, it also revealed the Brazilian’s immense talent for the world to see. His performance was truly staggering – whether it was going from 13th place to 2nd, or even setting the fastest lap at 1’54”334. It was stunning to watch Senna reduce the gap between his low-powered Toleman and almighty McLaren. He went from a staggering 31 seconds to less than 7 seconds before the race was stopped, rather controversially, after 31 laps.
It is a given that real, raw talent becomes most prominent in the wet. And it should have come as no surprise that Senna would one day be called the rainmeister, who truly shined when the sun hid behind the clouds, and it rained.
Neither would the fans be surprised when he would one day be given the moniker Mr Monaco.
1984 Monaco was when Ayrton Senna announced to the world that he had arrived. F1 would not be the same.
TOMORROW Racing With Ayrton Senna: 1985 Portuguese Grand Prix
PREVIOUSLY Racing with Ayrton Senna: 1984 South African Grand Prix
[Quotes are taken either from the commentators while watching race footage, Ayrton Senna – Memories and Mementoes from a life lived at full speed: An interactive voyage by Christopher Hilton, and The Life of Senna by Tom Rubython]