[Finished] Case #7: The Premature ending of the 1984 Monaco GP
Posted 23 January 2001 - 09:19
The famous race was held under heavy rain, and was won by Alain Prost. Catching up on him were the then-young Ayrton Senna and Stefan Bellof. However, before they were able to challenge Prost, the race was stopped by the race director, citing the treacherous weather conditions as the reason.
Those are, in brief, the facts of the case. The long standing controversy lies in the dispute of whether the race should have been stopped to begin with, and subsequently whether Senna - or Bellof for that matter - were unfairly robbed of a victory (or alternatively, Prost was granted a win through partiality of the race stewards).
This case has been accepted for hearing by the court, and I shall be the residing judge. Hearing will begin on March 8th, for a period of 7 days. A decision on the case will be posted up to 7 days after hearing is closed.
This case will NOT attempt to determine who would have won the race had it not been stopped, but rather whether the race should have been stopped to begin with.
Personally, I have seen this race on television but do not know enough about the cirumstances that surrounded the decision to stop the race. I am eagerly hoping to be enlightened here.
I know that this race is one of those races that people argue over for years thereafter. I invite everyone with information and knowledge about this race to contribute to the hearing, so that I may be able to better assert wherein lies the dispute and perhaps reach a judgement on whose arguments are the most compelling.
Posted 08 March 2001 - 19:50
Posted 08 March 2001 - 20:36
When the race starts you know the rules and they state that the race director can decide if the race is getting to dangerous and that it should stop. Probably if he didn't stop it and some big accident hapened, we woul be here for the trial of the "criminal" behaviour of the race director. So, even if it was a misfortune Prost was in front, the race director did the right thing.
Posted 09 March 2001 - 13:45
In those circumstances, safety (of spectators and officials, not just drivers) has to come first. If the race had continued, we might have been mourning Senna and/or Bellof sooner than we later had to. To have haung on, just because the result might be about to change, would have been reprehensible.
I urge the Court to uphold the rece director's decision to stop the race.
Posted 10 March 2001 - 17:32
Although the race director had the right to stop the race and his decision to do so was probably correct as the conditions got worse in the final 10 minutes, the real question is why a restart was not undertaken. The organizers of the race never attempted a restart and in fact the chequered flag was shown in error by a person who was not a race official. The podium activities took place and as I understand the barriers were being dismantled prior to any consultation between team,race and FISA officials.
Proper procedure would have dictated that FISA officials schedule a restart and then decide if the weather conditions would allow it. This was not done, race officials overstepped their power and decided the race had ended when they had no right to do so. When team officials reached race control to discuss the time of the restart Prost was already accepting congratulations from the Royal Family.
I contend that the race was stopped legally but was ended prematurely. The Monaco race officials that ended the race did not have any right to make the decision they did, this should have been a FISA decision. Poor organization and a lack of knowledge of the rules led to the race being called prior to the halfway point and the resulting 1/2 points being allocated. The only reason no penalty was assessed to the Monaco organizers was that, at the time, the decision seemed to benefit the pro-Prost French factions within FISA (Balestre). This decision may have ultimately cost Prost the title in 1984.
Posted 13 March 2001 - 00:44
Was any protest filed by Toleman or Tryell? I don't remember hearing of Senna or Bellof publicly speaking out against the decision, but perhaps someone else has...
Posted 13 March 2001 - 18:15
Back in 1984, I was a first aid worker on the track, working for the Monegasque Red Cross. Along with another guy, we had to stay ready to intervene with our stretcher if a crash was to take place in front of us, at the first curve of the swimming pool, right on the opposite side of the K grandstand. For the teenager I still was then, it was a dream job, being given a pit pass for watching F1 cars roar by.
The day of the Grand Prix started badly, with rain already falling in the morning. By the time the start was given at 15:00 local time, the track was already very wet, and most drivers were given the opportunity to do some reconnaissance laps before putting their cars on the grid. While many people remember the last few laps of the event with the first Prost-Senna duel ever in F1, very few remember the many cars which crashed out of the race one way or another. Among them was Nigel Mansell's black JPS Lotus while in the lead, when the car suddenly lost traction in Beau Rivage and hit the guiderail sideways. The attrition rate was pretty high, and thanks to it, Prost soon got a healthy lead over his rivals. Among them was the young Ayrton Senna who, after almost crashing his Toleman by escalating the curb in the old chicane, was driving what seemed to be the race of his life. Behind the Brazilian, Stefan Bellof was fighting the elements and his Tyrrell to reach third position.
During the last few laps, the already horrendous conditions worsened noticeably, and I started to be concerned about the part of the track right in front of me, which looked one step short of being flooded. I was myself soaked and cold, but I kept on watching the race with renewed interest when it became obvious to me that Alain Prost had a problem with his brakes. At each lap, he seemed to be using his engine braking as much as he could to slow down his car, while Senna was steadily reducing the gap with a perfect drive. Bellof was getting closer as well, but the way his car was constantly going sideways under acceleration made me fear he would not be able to stay on the track until the end of the race. Lap after lap, Senna was getting closer to a desperate Prost, while the conditions were beyond what I had ever seen in Monaco. So the race interruption actually came as no surprise. I actually believe the race should have been stopped before, and it was obvious that the weather was not about to get better anytime soon. That might explain why no restart seemed to have been even considered by the race marshals, given the fact that the track was in several places completely unfit for a F1 race.
A few years later, working for the GP organisers in the press room of the Monaco Grand Prix, I had the opportunity to discuss this race with several of my colleagues from the Automobile Club de Monaco. And doing so, I heard an interesting tale from one of these people, who was present when the decision to stop the race was taken. According to that person, the decision to stop the race was first considered about 10 laps before it actually took place. The Race Commitee was receiving increasingly alarming radio reports from the track marshals about the tarmac condition, and it soon became obvious that the race could not be completed as it was. So Jacky Ickx and several people met and discussed if it was desirable to let the race go on a bit longer, while knowing that the risk was rising to a worrying level. After a few minutes, it was actually decided to red-flag the race, and while the decision was about to be transmitted to the marshals, Prost crossed the line with his hand raised, a gesture which would later fuel some people's suspicion that the race was fixed. But it was too late to worry about such considerations, and a lap later, the cars were stopped, probably depriving Senna of what could have been a stunning first victory. Is this story true? I have no proof of course, but knowing intimately the decision-making process within the Automobile Club and its Grand-Prix structure, I find that tale believable and consistent with the events as we all know them.
So, while I still see Senna as the virtual winner of that race, I do not find the decision to stop the race shocking in any way. It was just bad luck that it happened right before the Brazilian got in position to fight for the lead...
Posted 15 March 2001 - 03:27
A controversial finish
Race director Jacky Ickx, a renowned wet-weather expert in his days in Formula One, found himself in the midst of a political storm as he was accused of deliberately stopping the race to ensure Prost won. Ickx drove for Porche in sports car racing, the conspiracy went, and so of course he wanted Prost, who was powered by a Porche-built engine, to win. Many people pointed out that the rain was as hard when the race was stopped as at any time in the afternoon.
Despite Pascal's eyewitness accounts it's hard to overlook the Ickx-Porche relationship but even more so the claim that the intensity of the rain remained constant throughout the race.
For the record, 7 drivers retired due to spinning off circuit or through collisons. That's not an alarming number and considering that they ran 8 trouble free laps from lap 23 to lap 31 where the race was stopped, it's rather puzzling that the race was called off.
Cla Nº Driver Car / Engine Laps Time Delay/Retirement
1 7 Alain Prost McLaren/TAG 31 1:01'07.740
2 19 Ayrton Senna Toleman/Hart 31 1:01'15.186 7.446
3 28 Rene Arnoux Ferrari 31 1:01'36.817 29.077
4 6 Keke Rosberg Williams/Honda 31 1:01'42.986 35.246
5 11 Elio de Angelis Lotus/Renault 31 1:01'52.179 44.439
6 27 Michele Alboreto Ferrari 30 1:01'08.404 1 Lap
7 24 P.Ghinzani Osella/Alfa Romeo 30 1:01'44.802 1 Lap
8 5 Jacques Laffite Williams/Honda 30 1:02'07.465 1 Lap
4 Stefan Bellof Tyrrell/Ford 31 1:01'28.881 Disqualified
22 Riccardo Patrese Alfa Romeo 24 50'05.844 Steering
8 Niki Lauda McLaren/TAG 23 45'53.369 Spun off
14 M.Winkelhock ATS/BMW 22 44'07.035 Spun off
12 Nigel Mansell Lotus/Renault 15 29'28.583 Spun off
1 Nelson Piquet Brabham/BMW 14 28'56.715 Electrical
25 F.Hesnault Ligier/Renault 12 25'07.591 Electrical
2 Corrado Fabi Brabham/BMW 9 19'25.334 Electrical
20 Johnny Cecotto Toleman/Hart 1 2'35.136 Spun off
16 Derek Warwick Renault 0 - Collision
15 Patrick Tambay Renault 0 - Collision
26 A.de Cesaris Ligier/Renault 0 - Accident
That's no more alarming than last year's race in the dry:
Cla Nº Driver Car / Engine Laps Time Delay/Retirement
1 2 David Coulthard McLaren/Mercedes 78 1:49'28.213
2 4 R.Barrichello Ferrari 78 1:49'44.102 15.889
3 11 G.Fisichella Benetton/Playlife 78 1:49'46.735 18.522
4 7 Eddie Irvine Jaguar/Cosworth 78 1:50'34.137 1'05.924
5 17 Mika Salo Sauber/Petronas 78 1:50'48.988 1'20.775
6 1 Mika Hakkinen McLaren/Mercedes 77 1:49'32.819 1 Lap
7 22 J.Villeneuve BAR/Honda 77 1:50'08.074 1 Lap
8 15 Nick Heidfeld Prost/Peugeot 77 1:50'39.719 1 Lap
9 8 Johnny Herbert Jaguar/Cosworth 76 1:50'43.147 2 Laps
10 5 H-H.Frentzen Jordan/Mugen-Honda 70 1:38'30.235 Spun off
19 Jos Verstappen Arrows/Supertec 60 1:26'38.080 Spun off
3 M.Schumacher Ferrari 55 1:17'04.191 Suspension
23 Ricardo Zonta BAR/Honda 48 1:09'22.500 Spun off
9 Ralf Schumacher Williams/BMW 37 52'24.925 Spun off
6 Jarno Trulli Jordan/Mugen-Honda 36 50'55.680 Gearbox
16 Pedro Diniz Sauber/Petronas 30 43'19.447 Spun off
14 Jean Alesi Prost/Peugeot 29 41'13.947 Transmission
21 Gaston Mazzacane Minardi/Fondmetal 22 32'00.286 Spun off
20 Marc Gene Minardi/Fondmetal 21 30'36.346 Gearbox
12 Alexander Wurz Benetton/Playlife 18 26'16.800 Spun off
10 Jenson Button Williams/BMW 16 23'28.720 Engine
The race should not have been stopped. Perhaps the Ickx-Porche relationship is a stretch but that they ran trouble free from lap 23 to lap 31 puts doubt into the officiating of this particular grand prix. And again the claim that the intensity of the rain remained constant throughout the race. If there is evidence to the contrary with respect to the weather, I'd love to read it.
Posted 15 March 2001 - 18:13
Posted 16 March 2001 - 07:34
But I also wish to add an element for the Court to consider. Monaco being a temporary city track, I guess no one really studied how the water was drained from the road in such treacherous conditions when many elements (guiderails, grandstands, barriers, etc...) conspired to make that more complex than usual. I stand by my claim that right in front of where I was standing, the track was getting increasingly flooded, and from what I heard from several people, the same thing took place in several other spots. So even if the rain had remained constant, which was not the case, there might have been a similar problem regarding the track's condition a bit later in the race.
Oh, and one last correction regarding the race classification as retrieved from Forix by Mario. François Hesnault is shown as having retired because of electrical problems, but he spun at least twice before giving up, the last time in Ste-Dévote if I remember correctly, so I'm a bit doubtful about the true reason of his retirement.
Posted 22 March 2001 - 19:27
Posted 31 March 2001 - 04:45
You would expect, after such a delay, that I would come up with a lengthy and rather elaborate decision. However, perhaps not surprisingly, that is not the case.
Having read the evidence submitted here, I believe I have no choice but to reject the case altogether, seeing as no substantial evidence was provided to evoke even a shadow of a doubt that the race should NOT have been stopped.
What are the elements that make this a controversial case to begin with? I personally believe it is primarily the fact that Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna were involved in what could have been a fantastic duel. However, that the fans might have been robbed of that duel is in itself not a reason strong enough to doubt that the conditions justified stopping the race.
No evidence was brought to the court supporting the claim that the decision to stop the race was altogether wrong; suggestions that the race director may have been biased in favour of Alain Prost were not backed up by any evidence; and on top of that we have the detailed account of Pascal, who was in fact working in that Grand Prix as a marshal.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank Pascal for his account. It is quite rare to read on the Bulletin Board an account from someone present at the scene of the event, as opposed to the TV viewers that we are, or the track spectators that we may be from time to time. And, Pascal did a fine job in illuminating for those like me who were not present what the conditions were like and what was the frame of mind of those soaking in their cloths in what is, let's not forget, an unforgiving street circuit even in the dry!
BRG mentions a legal term - "no case to answer." In layman's term, this means that a case is found to be irrefutable, without proof, thus absolving the defense from any need to respond to the allegations. It is a finding that is used most often in criminal cases, where the prosecution has brought insufficient evidence to even establish a prosecutable case. And, the meaning is that not only does the judge find in favour of the defense, he in effect dismisses the trial altogether.
I believe that, indeed, this term applies to this case as well.
We may argue for all eternity what would have happened if the race was not stopped; who would have won if there was a restart or just a few laps more. We may also believe, each to our own, that the race director had hidden agenda in stopping the race when he did. Either way, the fact remains that stopping the race was not an unsound or illogical decision to make, but rather quite the contrary.
In light of all of the above, I find in the matter of the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix's premature ending, that there is no case to answer.