First things first – there can never be an F1 race without drama or else it wouldn’t stand to be categorized as racing. Just consider machines shooting like rockets on twists and corners and you will appreciate the reason Formula One is so gripping.
Well, Monaco GP has always been a theatre of amazing drama but the 1996 event has received the vote as one of the wackiest in F1 on various occasions. Why would all fans agree on such an assessment? There is no other way of answering than assessing the race itself.
1. Pre-race Situation
Truth be told, the year 1996 belonged to Williams with Damon Hill and rookie Jacques Villeneuve both from a blood of racing legends leading the pack. Ferrari was simply mediocre with one of the most maligned F1 Scuderia’s car, the F310. Other teams were clearly going down including Benetton, Ligier and Sauber among others.
2. Practice and Qualifying
Schumacher who had made a much-hyped move to Ferrari took pole position though with some controversy. Hill came in second with Benetton’s Berger whom Schumacher had accused of blocking in qualifying coming in the 2nd row together with Jean Alesi in the same team.
This being Monaco where overtaking on race Sunday is impossible due to the narrow streets and hairpins, these were expected to be the eventual winners.
3. Race Sunday, let the Madness Begin
Once the warm up was over with Olivier Panis fastest on the track, rain doused the City ruthlessly. Organizers had to add a 15-minute session for drivers to acclimatize with the wet track. During the session, signs of what lay ahead started showing with three drivers going out.
Retirements started flowing in with Montermini, Jos Verstappen and Schumacher leaving 17 cars running. More drama at Monaco GP 1196 was to come with Barrichello spinning, Diniz out due to transmission and accidents forcing Katayama and Ricardo Rosset out. Berger damaged his front wing followed by Martin Brundle, Hill, Alesi, Luca Badoer, Villeneuve, Hakkinen, Mika Salo and Irvine.
Call it crazy but at the end, Olivier Panis who had qualified 14th saw the checkered flag first followed by David Coulthard and Herbert. While Heinz-Harald Frentzen car came in fourth, the race was already over and only the three cars were counted as having finished the race.
If you think 1996 was crazy, you have not seen the last of the unpredictable track. If you want to see this amazing race book your Monaco Grand Prix accommodation now.