On This Day In F1 - Senna Held Off A Much Faster Mansell At Monaco

On This Day In F1 - Senna Held Off A Much Faster Mansell At Monaco

A look back at what happened on 31 May in Formula 1 history

1959 Dutch Grand Prix
Jo Bonnier won his first and only grand prix from pole position, also the first win for the BRM team. Jack Brabham and Masten Gregory finished second and third having both led at one stage, while Stirling Moss retired from first with a dozen laps to go, just after he’d made it into the lead.

1981 Monaco Grand Prix
One of the finest wins of his career, Gilles Villeneuve somehow wrestled his Ferrari 126CK - which had plenty of power but was horrible in the corners - to victory at the track probably least suited to his car. To put his speed into perspective Villeneuve qualified a fine second, less than a tenth away from pole, while teammate Didier Pironi was down in 17th with a lap two-and-a-half seconds slower.

In the race, Nelson Piquet led most of the way before crashing out, leaving Alan Jones out in front. However, his Williams developed an issue, Villeneuve took the lead and won. Jones held on to finish second with Jacques Laffitte third - Pironi finished fourth, more than a lap behind his teammate.

Despite winning three titles, Piquet never did manage a victory at Monaco - and the 1981 race would prove to have been his best chance. (c) Eric Verplanken/Creative Commons
Despite winning three titles, Piquet never did manage a victory at Monaco - and the 1981 race would prove to have been his best chance. (c) Eric Verplanken/Creative Commons

1987 Monaco Grand Prix
Ayrton Senna’s first Monaco win was also the first for a car with active suspension - technology that would become absolutely essential in the next five years before being banned. Nigel Mansell had comfortably led the early laps before his turbo gave out, handing Senna a lead he would never lose. Nelson Piquet finished second ahead of Michele Alboreto, who’d inherited the place when Alain Prost’s engine failed with three laps to go.

1992 Monaco Grand Prix
Nigel Mansell was well on course to make it six wins in a row at the start of the season, having dominated most of the race from pole. However, with eight laps to go Mansell had to pit with a loose wheel, dropping him behind Ayrton Senna. Mansell set about putting in some unbelievably fast lap times - almost two seconds quicker than anyone else had managed all race - and quickly caught the McLaren. Even by Monaco standards a pass looked inevitable, but for the final three laps Senna took defensive driving to the extreme, placing his car in the middle of the road wherever he needed (even almost coming to a complete stop at times) just to hinder Mansell. It was an incredible finish and Senna just about held on to win his fifth Monaco GP. Unusually for Mansell, he had no complaints after the race and simply complimented Senna on his fair driving.

(c) Instituto Ayrton Senna/Creative Commons
(c) Instituto Ayrton Senna/Creative Commons

Birthdays
Jo Vonlanthen (born 1942) raced just once, for Williams in the 1975 Austrian GP. In the soaking wet race, he lasted just 14 laps before his engine failed.

Andrea de Cesaris (born 1959) holds the unfortunate record of the most race starts (208) without a win, as well as a number of records relating to retirements, such as the most in a row and the most in a season. A seriously quick driver, he once held the record of youngest pole-sitter but, despite some strong performances for Alfa Romeo in the early 1980s, his penchant for accidents lent him the nickname Andrea de Crasheris - in 1985 he was sacked by Ligier after lying about an accident, at which point his team boss said “I can no longer afford to employ this man”.

De Cesaris drove for 10 teams during his F1 career - Alfa Romeo, McLaren, Ligier, Minardi, Brabham, Rial, Scuderia Italia, Jordan, Tyrrell, and finally Sauber. (c) Martin Lee/Creative Commons
De Cesaris drove for 10 teams during his F1 career - Alfa Romeo, McLaren, Ligier, Minardi, Brabham, Rial, Scuderia Italia, Jordan, Tyrrell, and finally Sauber. (c) Martin Lee/Creative Commons

Sponsorship and experience made him an attractive asset for smaller teams and he carried on racing until the end of 1994, by which point he’d become a more reliable - but still fast - pair of hands. In 1991 he was famously outqualified by his new Jordan teammate Michael Schumacher at Spa, but less well known is the fact that de Cesaris was homing in on Senna for the lead at the end of the race before his engine failed. That was probably the closest he ever came to a win, leaving a pair of second places in 1983 as his best results.