F1: Monaco 1982 - Patrese Takes The Race Nobody Wanted To Win



It's Monaco Grand Prix time again, the most glamorous, prestigious race of the season.  For me it will always have a special place, being the first Grand Prix I ever watched and the first race I attended in person. There have been many amazing Monaco Grand Prix but the one that sticks in the memory is the 1982 race for all sorts of reasons, including the craziest finish in F1 history.

The Monaco Grand Prix was the race that followed Zolder, where the legendary and universally popular Gilles Villeneuve had lost his life in a terrible qualifying accident. The F1 world was still in deep shock but, as ever, the show must go on.

Rene Arnoux would start the race from pole position, an important result for Renault, for whom this was effectively a second home race. Since dragging F1 into the Turbo era in 1977, Monaco had always been a bogey track for the French team, its twisty, point and squirt nature ill-suited to the laggy power delivery of a turbo engine. So Ferrari's victory at Monaco the previous year - in its first attempt with a turbocharged engine - had hurt Renault. 1982 was going to be payback.

Arnoux's pole position lap was the little Frenchman distilled into one minute and 23 seconds. Aggressive, at times over the limit and on the point of disaster, but very, very quick. Highly-rated temamate Prost could only manage fourth place, the two Renault's separated by Riccardo Patrese's Brabham-Ford and Bruno Giacomelli's Alfa Romeo.

On race day Arnoux disappeared off into the lead, with Giacomelli lasting until lap four and Patrese being passed by Prost to make it a Renault 1-2. Until Arnoux ran wide at the second part of the swimming pool complex on lap 14, thumping the armco and ending his race. From there it appeared Prost had the race in the bag, able to comfortable keep Patrese at a safe distance. Behind, Pironi's Ferrari had move into third and de Cesaris in the other Alfa Romeo up into fourth.

It stayed that way until halfway round lap 74 of 76, when it started drizzling. On the wet straight between the chicane and Tabac corner Prost's Renault lost traction, swerved nose first  hard into the wall and ended Renault's hopes of a home win.

Patrese now led, with just two laps separating him from his first ever victory. Things weren't going to be as straighforward as they appeared though. Derek Daly's Williams spun at the exit to Mirabeau corner, wiping off the nose and rear wing of the car; and crucially, cracking the gearbox casing and depositing oil onto the track on the approach to the Loews Hairpin corner. Daly got his car pointing in the right direction and continued. Crucially though, no oil flags were shown by the marshalls at the corner. Patrese, now on his last lap, arrived at the scene unwarned and spun on the rain / oil slick surface. He managed to avoid contact with the walls but stalled his engine. With no starter motor in eighties Grand Prix cars, his race was apparently over.

Pironi now took over the lead, however his Ferrari lasted just a few hundred metres more, crawling into the tunnel and grinding to a halt. Thus handing the race to Andrea de Cesaris. Or so we thought, but the Alfa Romeo had died before even reaching the tunnel. Daly should have been the new leader, except that his oil starved gearbox had given up and he was rolling to a halt at the side of the track, still a lap down.

Based on running order the race now apparently belonged to Lotus - with Nigel Mansell and Elio De Angelis - more than a lap behind the leaders - now on for a famous and unexpected 1-2. Except that Patrese had managed to bump start his car on the downhill gradient after the hairpin and was off and running again, although going slowly.

At what point Riccardo realised he'd won the race isn't clear, some reports claim it was as he passed the stricken cars of his opponents on that final lap, others that he didn't realise until he was ushered to the podium after parking his car in the pits. I'm not aware of Riccardo ever confirming the truth. I suspect the slow pace of his lap was all about delaying his return to the pits, where he would have to explain to then Brabham owner Bernie Ecclestone how he had thrown away victory half a lap from the chequered flag.

Either way it was a crazy end to a crazy race. Pironi and de Cesaris were classified second and third, whilst the 1-2 for Lotus was transformed into a 4-5.

Monaco being Monaco, it was only two years before we were to get another grandstand finish, although that one was all about controversy.

0 comments: