When backmarkers strike in Monaco

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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

@ 1.35

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

@ 116.49

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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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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28 comments on “When backmarkers strike in Monaco”

  1. Prisoner Monkeys
    14th May 2010, 13:21

    Attn drivers: man up!

    Jarno Trulli is right – the teams had the oppotunity to split qualifying, and they didn’t take it. So no-one has any cause to complain if they get compromised.

    1. Ned Flanders
      14th May 2010, 14:00

      Er… did they have the opportunity to split qualifying? Apparently the new teams and the FIA were always against the idea so it was always a non starter

      1. Who knows what ideas were discussed. If they only wanted the 6-8 slowest cars to run separately, than it does not come as a suprise there was no agreement.

        The only way the backmarkeer would agree would be if it got with 2 parts having equal chances for everybody, but that would not be anything the leaders would agree on.

      2. Jarred Walmsley
        14th May 2010, 20:52

        No, it was the new teams that suggested it in the first place, I believe it was Bruno Senna who suggested it

      3. Prisoner Monkeys
        15th May 2010, 6:55

        They had the option – they just didn’t take it up. It was the smaller teams that suggested it, and Lotus that shot it down. They’re the only ones we know of for certain, and since it takes a 70% majority for a rule change like this to be passed, someone else voted against it. And that had to include an established team, since there are nine established and three new. If all nine established teams voted for it, they’d get it for certain because they hold 75% of the vote among them.

    2. There’s no way to split qualifying fairly.

  2. During Q1 the top teams should be at easily 3 seconds faster than the slower teams. So in reality the Red Bulls can just fill up the tank for 6 or 7 laps and drive around till a lap time of under 1:17 appears on the clocks.

    How hard can that be?

    After Q1 it shouldn’t be different from previous years.

    1. Terry Fabulous
      14th May 2010, 22:29

      Spot on Patrickl – this is a whole lot of hot air and premature excuses.

      Anyone who has a rubbish lap can now confidently blame traffic for their lack of skill.

      (I hope to god Jenson Button is complaining about traffic and qualifying 18th tonight!)

      1. Terry Fabulous
        15th May 2010, 2:46

        And I’m also an idiot, I hope to god that Jenson Button is NOT complaining about traffic and qualifying 18th tonight.

  3. Matthew McMahon
    14th May 2010, 13:35

    Remember 1996. Villeneuve tangling with the Forti towards the end of the race. At least there are no distinct drivers this year that you could classify as being a constant dangerous and careless driver.

    1. Yeah, he collided with non other than Luca Badoer ;)
      It was one of the craziest races ever… since lap 1 already.

    2. I will be extremely surprised if Kobayashi makes it through the weekend without tking himself out and maybe someone else too.

  4. check the safety car in the piquet video!

    1. Lambo Coutach, right? I saw that too, the Mercedes of that era would not have been fast enough to do the job….

  5. Ivan Vinitskyy
    14th May 2010, 14:12

    Q1 will not be hard for Top 8 as they have 20min to set an OK time. Q2 on the other hand might be harder as times will be quite close together and theres only 15min. Worst scenario is the red flag at any stage of quali )

    1. Renember suzuka last year? absolute worst case scenario :D

  6. The frontrunners only need one lap to set a decent enough time to see them through to Q2. The problem is not only going to be traffic though. I can’t see Q1 running without any yellow flags (or even a red flag) – so it’s going to be vital to get a lap in early. Then there is the chance of rain (apparently…) as well. Think it’s going to be a very interesting qualifying to say the least.

  7. Haha, that was great. I wonder how quick the stewards will be to dish out penalties this year – and whether Damon Hill will get an opportunity to slap his old mate Schumacher on the wrist…

    Was watching the 1988 highlights from the BBC ‘Classic F1’ series last night, and there were two outstanding examples in that race: Arnoux getting right in the way at the swimming pool, and another guy smacking straight into Patrese at Mirabeau.

  8. I loved the videos of those backmarkers, although i must admit that i was tempted to watch that whole 1995 race!

    Lewis mentioned, that the driver should cooperate to have all of them get a good shot at a fast lap. Sounds like one lap qualifying to me.

    Alonso was quoted saying it is just another challenge, one the drivers should overcome to win, while Kubica thinks it is unfair to critisize the slower runners for it.
    As Lotus is besting the times set last year by his BMW team, this is hardly a bid deal and everybody knows there are more teams, so why bicker about it now.

    I really like Kubica, great driving, does speak up when he sees fit but not saying too much for his own good.

  9. Robert McKay
    14th May 2010, 16:29

    Looking forward to Q1.

    As I posted elsewhere previously quali has been quite predictable this season – 6 out of the 7 drop-outs from Q1 are nailed on and in general the top 10 is proving likely to be the big 4 teams plus Kubica and Sutil, so there’s not been much scope for surprise thus far.

    But ultimately it will only be a problem if they let it be one, i.e. by sitting in the garage for half the session and then moaning about their one flying lap being scuppered. As others have said they don’t need to be quick to beat the bottom 6, so just go out there and run as much as you can and you’ll get some clean laps in.

  10. Litle bit of rain together with many new drivers sounds like red flag in Q1 is almost sure ting. Best teams have to go out and get the banker lap.
    In race backmarkers will cost leaders time, thats for sure but i dont think we will se something like clips in article

  11. That video of Piquet and Salazar was hilarious. Im no Piquet fan, but I wouldve hit that guy too!

    1. Funny thing is that Piquet was later told that engine would have broken probably in the following lap. That would have been quite shameful for BMW in their first home race. So Piquet would be happy for what Salazar did.

  12. Sutil has one less worry than the other drivers this weekend – Kimi Raikkonen’s not in the field!

    1. But Kimi is in Monaco this weekend!

  13. The whinging about the number of cars on track is a little excessive, but there is some merit to the suggested remedy. Back in the day, with a long, single qualifying session, most of the time, few cars were out on track. We would wait for 30 minutes or more without seeing a competitive car leave the pits. This is in fact the point of the current multi-phase knockout format: so there are always cars on track and so laps always matter. Purposely creating jams to entertain fans takes on a new dimension on a super-tight track with cars 5-8 seconds off the pace. Perhaps each team, all of them, should designate someone to watch the GPS screen and be a “spotter,” a la, NASCAR.

  14. The traffic will be the challenge for the drivers this weekend, I will love to see some slow lap time from the front runner which will help the guys behind to catch them.

  15. the man who wave that chequered flag is standing just few inches away from speeding ferrari on 1st video… maybe bernie could allow that tomorrow :D

    love to see lotus on Q2 if they have a chance and speed of that T127

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