Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler Carlo Carluccio
– 1996: Olvier Panis storms to incredible Monaco victory
Jean Pierre Beltoise, Olivier Panis and Jarno Trulli are all members of a very exclusive club – they have stood atop the Monaco podium and been acclaimed winners.
Before any reader proffers “so what – there’s been many others that have” – the striking difference with this trio is that their respective Monaco wins were the only Formula One victories of their career.
On this day, eighteen years ago, Olivier Panis took a quite extraordinary win in what would prove to be the final victory for the Ligier concern.
In the warm-up that morning he lapped fastest in over-cast conditions but no-one really paid too much attention as the Frenchman was starting from fourteenth on the grid. Everyone knew that it was impossible to over-take at Monaco.
They lined up for the start in heavy rain – spectators did a double take – Michael Schumacher was driving two cars? He was on pole position with his Ferrari and it appeared that he was seated in the Mclaren of David Coulthard..
DC had borrowed a helmet from him as his own had malfunctioning visors and for one afternoon, at least, Ron Dennis could dream he had Schumacher in one of his cars.
From the start, Damon Hill passed the Ferrari before Ste.Devote and in heavy rain immediately began to pull away. In the ensuing chase Schumi hit the kerb at Portier and skated into the barrier and was eliminated from the race.
A number of cars littered the roads – including both Minardis – and Giancarlo Minardi was blunt in his reply: “We plan the race in detail, and it’s annoying to see everything wasted by unbelievable mistakes from our drivers. We have to wait and see the telemetry before deciding which one is responsible.”
From there Hill waltzed away at the front increasing his lead over Alesi to over 13 seconds within 5 laps. Panis had initially moved up to 12th then passed Brundle on lap 7, Hakkinen on lap 16 and chased Herbert – completing the pass on lap 25.
On lap 28 Hill stopped for slicks and re-passed Alesi within two laps. Panis also stopped and changed tyres but took on only a splash of fuel as he had started heavy. Mclaren in responding to the Panis stop brought Mika Hakkinen in but he dropped behind Panis once more. Two laps later DC came in and emerged behind the Frenchman as well who had begun lapping quicker than anybody – including the leader.
Panis took nine seconds off of Irvine in four laps and attempted a pass at the Loews hairpin, spinning Irvine out of position. With his steering awry he continued to chase down Hill – until he spun on oil at the chicane. Oil that had been dropped by the blown engine from Hill’s Renault engine.
After the spin he continued setting fastest laps but trailed Alesi by half a minute but the race Gods hadn’t finished yet. Alesi pulled into the pits with what turned out to be a broken spring and with 18 laps remaining we had a Ligier driven by Panis fighting off Schumacher in a Mclaren.
“I have nothing to regret about having won this way because I pushed hard all the way to bring home a Ligier victory.” Panis