The Monaco Grand Prix, with its rich history dating back to 1929, has always been a spectacle in the world of Formula 1. The 1996 Monaco GP, in particular, stands out as one of the most unpredictable and thrilling races ever witnessed on the streets of the principality.
Although 21 drivers roared off from the, by the end of the race there were only 3 cars still trundling around. That’s right! it’s not a printing error 18 cars crashed or retired leaving Oliver Panis in 1st place, David Coulthard in 2nd and Johnny Herbert in 3rd!
Let’s dive deep into this iconic race and find out how the disaster unfolded.
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Starting Line-up of the 1996 Monaco GP
Olivier Panis topped the warm-up speeds, while Jacques Villeneuve ranked 18th, having anticipated rain with a wet-setup. Due to unexpected heavy rainfall after the warm-up, an extra 15-minute session was introduced, marking the race weekend’s first encounter with rain.
The actual Monaco Grand Prix race saw a stellar line-up of drivers, with Michael Schumacher starting the race on pole. The German driver, known for his impeccable skills and determination, was the favorite to win. However, as history would have it, the race had other plans.
Further down the grid, Max Verstappen’s father, a less successful F1 driver in comparison to his son, made a bold decision to start on slicks, a choice that would soon prove costly.
The 1996 Monaco GP Race Progression
The race was characterized by its classic wet-into-dry scenarios, making tire choices a gamble. As the lights went out, 21 drivers roared to life, navigating the tight and twisty streets of Monaco.
However, the unpredictable weather and challenging track conditions led to chaos.
Hill overtook Schumacher at Sainte-Dévote.
Meanwhile, Jos Verstappen, starting on slicks, crashed into the wall. The two Minardis collided while they exited the first turn. Hill started to gain distance.
Schumacher, despite now running in 2n place, was caught off-guard by the wet conditions and hit the wall at Lower Mirabeau before completing the first lap. This was just the beginning of a series of unfortunate events for many top drivers.
By the end of the first lap, five racers had already retired.
By lap 10, four more had joined the list, and as the race progressed, nine more drivers found themselves out of contention.
Damon Hill faced a spectacular engine failure, leading to his retirement.
Eddie Irvine’s Ferrari met a similar fate after a collision with Olivier Panis.
Crashes and Retirements at the 1996 Monaco GP
The 1996 Monaco GP was not kind to many. Schumacher’s early exit was a significant blow to his fans.
Max Verstappen’s father, who had decided to start on slicks, soon found himself crashing into the wall.
Damon Hill’s engine failure was another unexpected twist, and Eddie Irvine’s collision with Olivier Panis further added to the list of retirements.
Other notable drivers like Mika Häkkinen, Jean Alesi, and Martin Brundle also couldn’t see the checkered flag.
The Final Three who finished the 1996 Monaco GP
In a race marked by unpredictability and retirements, only three drivers managed to finish. Johnny Herbert, driving for Sauber, secured the third position.
McLaren’s David Coulthard, known for his consistency and skill, came in second. However, the day belonged to Olivier Panis, driving for Ligier Mugen Honda.
Against all odds, Panis clinched the victory, making it his one and only F1 win. This race, with only three finishers, set a record in the modern F1 era, a testament to its challenging nature.
The 1996 Monaco Grand Prix is a testament to the unpredictable nature of Formula 1. While the favorites faced unexpected challenges, underdogs rose to the occasion.
The race, with its wet-dry conditions, tire gambles, and numerous retirements, will forever be etched in the annals of F1 history. As fans, races like these remind us of the sheer unpredictability and thrill that Formula 1 brings, making it the pinnacle of motorsport.
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