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Race Report

Monaco Grand Prix
Monte Carlo

Qualifying - Race - Analysis

2.092 miles

Qualifying : Sunny and dry

The streets of Monte Carlo level the field somewhat, as there is no great need for pure horsepower. A smooth and flexible power band and a well balanced chassis are what is required to go fast here. That was one of the main reasons we saw Johnny Herbert topping the times after Thursday's free practice. When it came to qualifying hour, however, the Sauber came up a little short and it was the usual Williams / Ferrari shootout for pole.

This time it was Heinz-Harald Frentzen's turn to be the front-runner, as team-mate Jacques Villeneuve again struggled with his set-up (though not as badly as he did in 1996), getting very ragged on several occasions and eventually slapping the armco barrier at the end of the session. Micheal Schumacher rang the neck of his Ferrari putting him on the front row for the race he had already won twice. Also up front, thanks to the balanced Jordan chassis, was Giancarlo Fisichella and Ralf Schumacher with perhaps only their inexperience with the demanding circuit stopping one of them from taking pole.

Also putting in a good showing were the West McLaren's of David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen and, once again, Rubens Barrichello in the Stewart-Ford V10. The slower average speeds allowed Mika Salo to put his underpowered Tyrrell half way up the grid instead of at the back, but teammate Jos Verstappen was lucky to be in the race after almost destroying his car at the end of the session.

Last years winner Olivier Panis was not a strong factor, while Shinji Nakano did nothing to convince Alain Prost he should keep him in the team, qualifying 1.3 seconds off his team leader.

Once again, the Benetton-Renault's of Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi were floundering. Complaining of a lack of grip and balance, the Austrian had to suffer the ignominy of being out-qualified by the likes of Salo's Tyrrell and Pedro Diniz in the TWR-Yamaha !
Drastic measures may be on the cards at Benetton.

So Williams continued its' monopoly on pole positions, but Heinz-Harald Frentzen showed he too can get the job done.

Frentzen during qualifying

1996 Pole: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) 1m 20.356s

The Starting Grid

Heinz-Harald Frentzen Williams-Renault 1m 18.216s
Michael Schumacher Ferrari 1m 18.235s
Jacques Villeneuve Williams-Renault 1m 18.583s
Gianni Fisichella Jordan-Peugeot 1m 18.665s
David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes 1m 18.779s
Ralf Schumacher Jordan-Peugeot 1m 18.943s
Johnny Herbert Sauber-Petronas 1m 19.105s
Mika Hakkinen McLaren-Mercedes 1m 19.119s
Jean Alesi Benetton-Renault 1m 19.263s
Rubens Barrichello Stewart-Ford 1m 19.295s
Nicola Larini Sauber-Petronas 1m 19.468s
Olivier Panis Prost-Mugen 1m 19.626s
Damon Hill TWR Arrows-Yamaha 1m 19.674s
Mika Salo Tyrrell-Ford 1m 19.964s
Eddie Irvine Ferrari 1m 19.723s
Pedro Diniz TWR Arrows-Yamaha 1m 19.860s
Gerhard Berger Benetton-Renault 1m 20.199s
Jarno Trulli Minardi-Hart 1m 20.349s
Jan Magnussen Stewart-Ford 1m 20.516s
Ukyo Katayama Minardi-Hart 1m 20.606s
Shinji Nakano Prost-Mugen 1m 20.961s
Jos Verstappen Tyrrell-Ford 1m 21.290s

107 % rule time: 1m 23.692s

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Race : 62 laps (2 hour maximum time limit)
- rain and high winds

1996 Winner: Olivier Panis (Ligier) 2h 00m 45.629s

The Result

Michael Schumacher Ferrari 2h 00m 05.654s
Rubens Barrichello Stewart-Ford 2h 00m 58.960s
Eddie Irvine Ferrari2h 01m 27.762s
Olivier Panis Prost-Mugen 2h 01m 50.056s
Mika SaloTyrrell-Ford 1 lap down
Gianni Fisichella Jordan-Peugeot 1 lap down

Jan Magnussen Stewart-Ford 1 lap down
Jos Verstappen Tyrrell-Ford 2 laps down
Gerhard Berger Benetton-Renault 2 laps down
Ukyo Katayama Minardi-Hart 2 laps down
Heinz-Harald Frentzen Williams-Renault 39 laps - spun & broke front suspension
Shinji Nakano Prost-Mugen 36 laps - spun & stalled
Nicola Larini Sauber-Petronas 24 laps - mechanical
Jean Alesi Benetton-Renault 16 laps - spun & stalled
Jacques Villeneuve Williams-Renault 16 laps - broken rear suspension
Ralf Schumacher Jordan-Peugeot 10 laps - mechanical
Johnny Herbert Sauber-Petronas 9 laps - spun off
Jarno Trulli Minardi-Hart 7 laps - spun off
David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes 1 lap - spun & stalled
Mika Hakkinen McLaren-Mercedes 1 lap - collision damage
Damon HillTWR Arrows-Yamaha 1 lap - broken front suspension
Pedro DinizTWR Arrows-Yamaha 0 laps - spun off

Fastest Lap

1997 : Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) 1m 53.341s
Lap Record: Michael Schumacher (Benetton) 1m 21.076s (1994)

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Schumacher with trophy

Analysis :
Der Rainmeister strikes again....
Last year in Spain, Michael Schumacher put on one of the greatest ever displays of wet weather driving. Around the streets of Monte Carlo, he gave an encore performance.

Right at the end of the warm-up session as the rain began to fall, the German switched to a full wet set-up on his Ferrari while the rest of the grid stayed with a dry set up, thinking the weather would improve... didn't !

Goodyear offered the teams the choice of a full wet tyre or an intermediate, but the Williams team made an astonishing strategic blunder and sent both cars to the grid with slicks, hoping that a dry line would develop quickly.
When the lights went out the rain was falling heavily and both polesitter Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Jacques Villeneuve slithered around in a hopeless search for grip, while Schumacher took off like he had been shot out of a gun - pulling out a 6.5 second lead on the first lap....

Since there had been no rain for several days, the water brought all the road oils to the surface and turned the track into an ice-rink with TWR's Pedro Diniz spinning off at Portier without completing a lap.
The Chicane was particularly treacherous as the cars could run at normal race speeds through the tunnel, but then had to brake heavily for the tight chicane while also transitioning from dry to wet track. David Coulthard was the first to spin there and as the rest of the field braked heavily to avoid him, team-mate Mika Hakkinen hit the back of Jean Alesi's Benetton, tearing off the front wheel of the McLaren. So ended the West teams' afternoon.
The Danka TWR-Arrows boys got to pack up early as well, as team leader Damon Hill (who has still to finish a race this year) hit the barriers while trying to avoid Coulthard.

Showing well in the early laps were the Jordan's of Giancarlo Fisichella and Ralf Schumacher, the young Italian in particular driving very smoothly - a crucial requirement in the soggy conditions.
Unfortunately, Schumacher Jr's car let him down early on and Fisichella's second set of tyres were not as effective, causing him to slip back into the final points paying position.

As the Williams' plummeted down the lap charts during the first dozen laps, we were treated to the sight of Frentzen and Villeneuve battling the likes of Ukyo Katayama and Jan Magnussen !
Poor Jarno Trulli was so surprised to see Frentzen behind him that he moved over approaching Mirabeau to let him through (perhaps thinking he was being lapped !) and lost control, planting the Minardi-Hart into the tyre wall.
Both Williams drivers switched to wet tyres in quick succession, but Villeneuve never got to grips with the conditions and in a repeat of qualifying, hit the barriers going up the hill, breaking the rear suspension.
Frentzen lasted a little longer, but he too slid into the armco while running in a disappointing 10th position.

Olivier Panis was unable to repeat his victory, having to settle for fourth place and more useful points for the Prost team, after a good scrap between himself, Eddie Irvine and Fisichella.
The award for the happiest team in Monte Carlo was between Tyrrell and Stewart. Mika Salo put on a great display of controlled driving, going for the full two hours without a pit stop, en route to the Tyrrell teams' first points of the season.
Meanwhile, Rubens Barrichello made a great start, climbing to second by lap nine and never looking back. He gave the young Stewart equipe its' first finish, first Chamionship points and first podium finish all in one race ! Understandably, Jackie Stewart and Co were over the moon.

So there were a lot of big smiles on the podium, especially from Jean Todt, as Schumacher gave Ferrari its' first win of the season and Eddie Irvine added his third podium finish in a row.
Schumacher himself admitted he would like to skip the race in Barcelona, a power circuit not suited to the Ferrari. But then again, after the sunshine all weekend, who expected rain on Sunday at Monaco ?

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Scumacher at speed

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Photo credits : AP / F1PictureNet