Aryton Senna achieved many things during his illustrious career that others aspire to. The moniker, 'King of Monaco' is one such. He announced his arrival on the world stage with a stunning drive in the rain around the narrow streets at the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix to nab his first podium in an uncompetitive Toleman-Hart car. He was second and rapidly catching Alain Prost's McLaren-TAG when the race was red-flagged because of undrivable conditions.
Senna finished third in 1986 in a Lotus-Renault and won in 1987 with Lotus, but this time with a Honda engine to propel him. He had dominated the field in free practice and qualifying in 1988 when he took pole by a stunning margin of 1.427 seconds! He was close to a minute in front of his team-mate Alain Prost, when he crashed at Portier, still pushing to go faster, with 10 laps to go.
Livid at himself for losing concentration, he stormed straight to his apartment nearby. The McLaren crew did not hear from him until that evening when he walked into the pits as they were packing up. When he returned next year, he began a string of 5 consecutive Monaco Grand Prix wins for McLaren.
A pole-to-flag win got complicated when Senna's McLaren lost its first and second gear in the final few laps. But he disguised the trouble with his smooth driving so that team-mate Alain Prost wouldn't react and push for the lead. The Brazilian won the race 52 seconds ahead of him – an almost similar difference to the one he held when he crashed in 1988.
In the high-attrition race of 1990, only 6 drivers finished and only the podium finishers were on the lead lap. Senna leading from lap 1 had a scare when in the later stages of the race, his car started to slow, which allowed Jean Alesi in a Tyrrell-Ford and team-mate Gerhard Berger to close upon him. Senna's McLaren-Honda, however, managed to take him to the chequered flag safely for a win.
Now the defending world champion, the Brazilian won his fourth Monaco Grand Prix in 5 years. He quickly built up a huge lead over surprise front-row starter Stefano Modena and Ricardo Patrese in the initial laps. He controlled the race, lapping everyone except Nigel Mansell in a Williams and Ferrari's Jean Alesi, winning by an 18.348-second margin. The win was a big contributing factor to his third world title with McLaren-Honda.
Championship leader Nigel Mansell in a rapid Williams-Renault led the race up until lap 70, but then suffered a loose wheel nut and was forced into the pits. Senna jumped him but Mansell, on fresh tyres, was eating away almost 2 seconds off Senna's lead every lap. A titanic Senna-Mansell duel ensued around Monaco for the final 3 laps but the Englishman could not find a way past the Brazilian who equaled Graham Hill's record of 5 wins around the Principality.
Graham Hill's Mr. Monaco tag was bettered by Ayrton Senna with a record-smashing sixth win. For a 10-year period from 1984-93, either Senna or Prost won the Monaco Grand Prix. In 1993, Prost started from pole, followed by Michael Schumacher and Senna. Prost was penalised for his jump start with a stop-go penalty and had to charge his way back up the field. Schumacher was comfortably ahead until a hydraulic problem on lap 33 and retired in a cloud of smoke at Loews. Senna inherited the lead and won from Damon Hill in a Williams and Jean Alesi in a Ferrari. Ayrton Senna till date remains the King of Monaco Grand Prix.Published 25 May 2019, 15:49 IST