• Rewind to ... 1982

Three laps of chaos

Chris Medland February 1, 2012
Riccardo Patrese leads Dider Pironi before the dramatic closing stages of the race © Sutton Images
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It takes a dramatic and unpredictable race to lead the victor to declare "I didn't know I'd won the GP" at the conclusion. Even more so when up to four drivers thought they may have claimed victory: "There was a big discussion over who was first, second or third. Somebody came to me and started to shout, 'You won, you won.' Then I finally realised..."

1982 had proven a competitive, controversial and tragic year by the time the Formula One circus converged for its showcase round in the principality of Monaco. The first five races had seen four different winners, and it would have been five had initial Brazil winner Nelson Piquet not been disqualified for his car being underweight.

That disqualification led to a row which saw the FOCA teams boycott the San Marino Grand Prix. As a result, only 14 cars took part and the race was dominated by Ferrari with Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi battling throughout before Pironi stole the win on the final lap. The resulting dispute ultimately ended when Villeneuve was killed during qualifying at Zolder two weeks later.

Keke Rosberg had been set for victory in Belgium but brake issues on the new FW08 allowed John Watson through on the penultimate lap. As a result, Williams stopped off at the small Croix-en-Ternois circuit - about 60 miles south of Calais - en route to Monaco to carry out a private test.

Ferrari brought only one car to the race, while the rest of the paddock was still reeling from Villeneuve's death. After such turmoil in the early part of the season the focus was on the future as the teams looked to put the negative events behind them, and Monaco would provide the perfect opportunity to do so.

Rene Arnoux leads Bruno Giacomelli and Riccardo Patrese through the first corner with Alain Prost in fourth place © Sutton Images

With the brake problems resolved, Williams was on the pace in practice with Rosberg and Derek Daly fourth and fifth respectively, but the Renault, despite its turbo lag, was still the car to beat. Rene Arnoux comfortably took pole position, half a second ahead of Riccardo Patrese in the Brabham-Ford. Bruno Giacomelli's Alfa Romeo was third ahead of championship leader Alain Prost in the other Renault, with Didier Pironi fifth ahead of Rosberg, Andrea de Cesaris and Daly.

Race day was dry and sunny, meaning the start was likely to be crucial to each driver's hopes of victory around the streets. Arnoux led away with ease, while Giacomelli got the better of Patrese off the line to take second place and Prost held station in fourth. It didn't take long for the superior performance of the Renault to show, however, as Prost soon found his way past Patrese and then Giacomelli to line-up behind his team-mate.

Arnoux had a commanding lead, but appeared to lose concentration as he negotiated the Swimming Pool on lap 15, spinning between the chicanes and stalling. Arnoux hopped out of his car as his team-mate inherited the lead, and that seemed to be the race decided as Prost serenely controlled things from the front. Patrese valiantly tried to keep the Renault honest, but couldn't make any impression until the weather intervened.

As cloud formed over the principality, some light drizzle made for a greasy surface. Prost backed off to try and ease his way home, but saw his lead diminish and had to pick up the pace again. As Prost exited the chicane with three laps to go and headed towards Tabac he lost the rear end as the rain intensified. The car speared head-on into the barrier on the inside then bounced off the outside barrier before coming to rest. Prost was unharmed but the car was heavily damaged and Patrese picked his way through to take the lead, leaving him just over two laps from his maiden grand prix victory.

Behind, Patrese, Pironi and de Cesaris were the only cars on the same lap, but the significance of the moment seemed to get to the Italian as he spun on the run down to the Loews (then Station) Hairpin. The Brabham rolled across the kerb on the inside to rest in the middle of the road, and sensibly Patrese remained inside his stalled car and was able to rejoin.

"I was very cautious when I came to Loews, but I couldn't control it and I spun," Patrese said. "Afterwards someone objected that the marshals had pushed me. I didn't feel any push. I think they pulled me back a little, as I was in an unsafe position, stuck in the middle of the track. Then they let go. The moment I released the brakes the car started to roll. I went down the hill, let the car get some speed, grabbed second gear and it started - with the Cosworth it was always quite easy to do a bump start."

A surprised Riccardo Patrese celebrates his first grand prix victory on the podium © Sutton Images

Attention turned to Pironi as he swept by, but there was a sign of things to come as he was slow exiting the Rascasse. Just before crossing the finish line to start the final lap, Pironi was passed by Daly amongst others as he unlapped himself. De Cesaris also closed in on the leader, but as the pair climbed the hill towards Casino Square he dropped back rapidly and Pironi looked set to coast to victory.

Unbelievably, Pironi's car spluttered to a halt entering the tunnel as it ran out of fuel and as the cameras searched for the next man to inherit the lead - de Cesaris - they discovered that his Alfa Romeo was also stationary up at Casino Square. After unlapping himself, Daly had put his car in the barriers at Tabac and eventually stopped before Rascasse before starting his final lap, meaning Patrese was the only car still on the lead lap. He passed the stationary cars of de Cesaris and Pironi before tip-toeing through the debris of Daly's accident to take a remarkable victory.

The Daily Express described it as "one of the most staggering coups even Monte Carlo has seen", while in all the confusion, Patrese admitted that even he was unaware he'd won the race as he returned to the pits.

"I didn't know I'd won the GP. On the last lap de Cesaris stopped, then Pironi. I thought Rosberg's Williams was still ahead of me because I thought he'd overtaken me. So I thought I was second. On the finishing lap everybody was waving flags and so on, while I was thinking I'd thrown it all away. I can remember thinking, 'maybe they are pleased I finished second and drove a good race', but I was very, very unhappy."

The final three laps had crammed in more action and excitement than the previous 73 combined and - after the negative headlines created during the early part of the season - provided Formula One with just the boost it needed.