F1 Blast from the Past: Rain and Thirsty Engines cause chaotic end to MONACO GP

After the tragic events at Zolder in Belgium and the death of the great Gilles Villeneuve, the Formula One circus arrived in Monaco for round six of the 1982 World Championship. Monte Carlo’s layout was similar almost 40 years ago to what it is today, but the turbocharged monsters made it a far more challenging beast.

After Belgium, Alain Prost led the championship with 18 points. The Frecnhman was a point ahead of McLaren’s John Watson, who was three ahead of Keke Rosberg.


The turbocharged Renault’s had been the dominant force in qualifying thus far into the season, René Arnoux took the French manufacturers’ fifth pole position in six races. Second fastest was Riccardo Patrese in the Cosworth-powered Brabham ahead of Bruno Giacomelli in the Alfa Romeo.

Rene Arnoux qualified his Renault on pole by over half a second. Image: Reddit

Fourth on the grid was the second Renault of Prost, over a second shy of his team mate. Out of respect for the late Gilles Villeneuve, Ferrari only entered one car for Monaco; Didier Pironi lining up fifth with Keke Rosberg’s Williams completing the top six. Reigning World Champion Nelson Piquet, who was using the BMW turbocharged engine in the Brabham, was languishing down in 13th.

Race day

Arnoux converted pole into the lead as the 76-lap Monaco Grand Prix got underway. Giacomelli passed Patrese for second with Prost, Pironi and Andrea de Cesaris in the Alfa Romeo following suit. Arnoux had quickly pulled out a gap to the rest of the field and team mate Prost was determined not to let him have it all his own way.

By Lap 4, Prost had already disposed of Patrese and then muscled past Giacomelli into Sainte Dévote to take second place. Giacomelli retired moments later with a terminal mechanical problem.

Arnoux looked set for a win in the Principality, but this moment ruined it for him. Image: F1only.fr

It all looked set for a Renault procession, but hopes of a one-two finish were quickly dashed when Arnoux spun out of a comfortable lead at the Swimming Pool complex on Lap 15. This lapse of concentration allowed Prost through into the lead.

Behind Prost were Patrese, Pironi and de Cesaris. Patrese was keeping Prost honest and almost found away past him as they came up to lap backmarkers on Lap 33. Pironi became involved in a tangle with Elio de Angelis’ Lotus, which tore the nose cone of the Ferrari off but the Frenchman motored on.

Rain causes chaos

Prost had begun to ease away from Patrese as the race entered its closing stages, but then a change in the weather came into play. Prost had been looking good for his third victory of the season, but on Lap 74, he threw the race away just two laps from home.

Prost would be the second Renault to spin out of the race. Image: Pinterest

Prost had pushed too hard while negotiating the chicane, lost the car and crashed into the barriers. Patrese was through into the lead but on the next lap, he spun his Brabham on oil dropped from Derek Daly’s Williams into the Lowes hairpin and stalled his car. The Italian bump-started the Brabham on the downhill gradient going into Portier but had lost the lead to Didier Pironi.

As Pironi started the final lap, all did not look well the Ferrari, as the Frenchman appeared to be coasting and letting several cars unlap themselves. Pironi was out of fuel and ground to a halt in the tunnel, his demise should have allowed Andrea de Cesaris to take the lead but unbelievably, the Alfa Romeo was also out of fuel.

Derek Daly was running strongly in the slippery conditions, but the Irishman had collided with the barrier earlier in the race, which not only took the rear wing off his Williams but also allowed the gearbox oil to leak. Before he could start his final lap he too coasted to a standstill.

James Hunt, commentating for BBC Television infamously stated “Well we’ve got this ridiculous situation where we’re all waiting for a winner to come past and we don’t seem to be getting one!”

Amazingly, Patrese found himself in the lead again, and the Italian made it across the line to take the first victory of his career. Patrese was convinced after his spin that he had fallen too far back. The Italian mistaking the-then lapped Daly’s Williams for Keke Rosberg who had in fact retired several laps earlier.

As he angrily drove back to the pits, he was startled to find the Brabham mechanics celebrating. Certainly, May 23, 1982 was one of the most bizarre days in Formula 1 history.

Video Highlights

The F1 YouTube channel uploaded short highlights of the 1982 Monaco Grand Prix last year:

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Monaco GP weekend? Never fear, the Grid Talk crew are here and have you covered with their 2021 Monaco Grand Prixview. Ruby Price hosted Phil Mathew, Adam Burns and Mikael Kataja covered all of the main talking about points ahead of Round 5 of the 2021 Formula 1 season. Audio and video versions of the show are linked below:

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