When backmarkers strike in Monaco

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Backmarkers could make life tougher for the leaders this weekend
Backmarkers could make life tougher for the leaders this weekend

Traffic will be a bigger problem at Monaco this year than it has been since 1995. The short, narrow circuit makes it hard for leaders to avoid getting tangled up in traffic – as we’ve seen several times in the past.

Videos like these will be giving Red Bull and the other front runners restless nights on the eve of the Monaco Grand Prix.

1981: Piquet crashes out of the lead

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By the 54th lap of the race in 1981, crashes and car failures had claimed all but eight cars. Yet leader Nelson Piquet managed to come across two of them at once and threw away the lead in his attempt to get past.

It was a classic example of an under-pressure leader making a mistake in traffic. Piquet had second-placed Alan Jones bearing down on him as he caught Eddie Cheever’s Tyrrell and Patrick Tambay’s Theodore.

The race leader got off-line on the approach to Tabac and skidded into to the barrier on the outside of the track. Jones took the lead but Gilles Villeneuve eventually won the race.

It wasn’t the last time Piquet misjudged a move in traffic either. The following year at the Hockenheimring he tripped over Eliseo Salazar – and infamously threw punches and kicks at the driver afterwards.

1989: Gridlock at Loews

Piquet again – but this time he was the backmarker. After 34 laps of dragging his uncompetitive Lotus around one of his least favourite tracks, the three-times champion found himself being lapped by Andrea de Cesaris.

De Cesaris made his move at the hairpin in front of Loews hotel but the two cars interlocked and came to a halt.

This didn’t just delay de Cesaris, it also ended any hopes Alain Prost had of catching team mate Ayrton Senna. Prost spent 20 seconds parked in front of Loews like a taxi driver, waiting for the marshals to disentangle the two cars while de Cesaris gesticulated furiously at Piquet.

By the time Prost got going again, Senna’s lead had doubled and Prost was powerless to stop him from winning.

1995: Brundle wipes out Alesi

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Jean Alesi was running second at Monaco and poised to lap Martin Brundle. Brundle was trying to catch Mark Blundell’s seventh-placed McLaren at the time – but lost control of his car at the same place where Piquet came to grief 14 years earlier.

Following closely behind, Alesi could do nothing to avoid the spinning Ligier and hit the barriers. The Ferrari driver was not impressed afterwards:

Brundle was driving so much on the limit to block me that he eventually touched the guard rail at Tabac and spun in front of me. I was so close, I could not avoid the accident.
Jean Alesi

This year for the first time since 1995 there are 24 F1 cars on the streets of Monaco. Drivers – especially the leaders – will have to have their wits about them not to get caught up in accidents or lose time in qualifying.

It’s all part of the great challenge of Monaco. Those drivers and teams who have been complaining about it this year should remember F1 is racing, not just driving as fast as possible in isolation from your competitors.

Read more: Traffic a greater challenge in next races

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