Formula 1 Racing

How a tyre war prompted Senna’s unfinished Monaco masterpiece · RaceFans

Ayrton Senna, Toleman, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, 1984

The story of how Ayrton Senna was denied his first Formula 1 victory driving an unfancied Toleman at a rain-soaked Monaco 40 years ago today has become part of the driver’s legend.

But as is often the case with such celebrated stories, revealing details and potentially significant moments tend to get overlooked next to the drama.

The moment the race was stopped – controversially early, just before half-distance – accusations flew that it was halted deliberately by the race organisers in favour of its winner, Alain Prost. It was seen as the starting point of the enmity between those two drivers.

1984 Monaco Grand Prix qualifying

McLaren arrived at the sixth round of the 1984 season as heavy favourites. They had won all of the preceding rounds except the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder, where the MP4/4s of Prost and Niki Lauda were halted by technical trouble.

Surprisingly, the team had not taken a pole position up to that point, relying on the superior race pace and economy of the TAG Porsche engines to claim victory. But Prost made sure he took the crucial pole position in Monaco, lapping the Principality in 1’22.661 in his spare car.

Lotus driver Nigel Mansell also had to switch to his spare for qualifying after blowing his turbo. Lapping less than a tenth of a second off Prost, he joined the McLaren driver on the front row, though his complaints about traffic had grown so frequent his mechanics had jokingly left a horn in the cockpit of his 95T.

The next two rows were taken up by the Ferraris of Rene Arnoux and Michele Alboreto, then the Renaults of Derek Warwick and Patrick Tambay. Andrea de Cesaris took his Ligier up to the rare heights of seventh, sharing the fourth row with Niki Lauda. Reigning world champion Nelson Piquet was only ninth for Brabham ahead of his predecessor Keke Rosberg, who had won brilliantly on a slippery track the year before.

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Senna was only 13th, behind Elio de Angelis (Lotus) and Manfred Winkelhock (ATS), eight-tenths of a second quicker than team mate Johnny Cecotto, though separated from the other Toleman by four cars.

Among that quartet was Piquet’s team mate Corrado Fabi, who in a bizarre arrangement had taken over the second Brabham from his brother Teo. The older Fabi brother was prioritising the American CART IndyCar series, which he had almost won the year before, and had a clashing commitment at Milwaukee.

None questioned the prestige of Monaco’s…

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