The 66th Monaco Grand Prix gets underway in sombre mood following the death on Monday night of the legendary Austrian racer, Niki Lauda at the age of seventy. In total, there have been 77 editions of this event, the earliest dating back 90 years to 14th April 1929, the race won by British driver William Grover-Williams. The race has always been run on the same streets of the Principality, although the layout and length of the circuit has been slightly changed eleven times. The current length is 3.337 kilometres and Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow has nine wins to its name at this track.
The first Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix was held in 1950, the second ever race in the history of the championship and the one in which Scuderia Ferrari made its debut. 19 cars started, but the race ended for ten of them as early as the opening lap. Incredibly, a wave came over the harbour wall at Tabac corner, which caused Giuseppe Farina to crash in the Alfa Romeo. He was hit by the Maserati of Jose Froilan Gonzalez, causing a road block which several of the chasing pack could not avoid, causing a major collision. Juan Manuel Fangio won for Alfa Romeo, with Alberto Ascari second in a Ferrari.
The next race in the Principality took place in 1955 and it was won by a Ferrari 625 driven by Maurice Trintignant. The Frenchman had a tidy driving style and profited from the errors of others, having started from ninth on the grid, which is the second furthest place down the grid from which any driver has won. While the Scuderia enjoyed plenty of success elsewhere in the years that followed, it had to wait no less than twenty years for it's next victory in the streets of Monte Carlo when, in 1975, none other than Niki Lauda won at the wheel of the 312 T, a feat he repeated the following year.
The 1979 race featured an all-Ferrari front row with Jody Scheckter taking pole ahead of Gilles Villeneuve, but only the South African managed to hang on to his starting position to win. The Canadian's turn came two years later when he passed Alan Jones in the Williams with just four laps to go. This spectacular win, the first for a turbo-engined car at Monaco was worthy of a story in the American "Time" magazine, featuring Gilles and the number 27 Ferrari on the cover, an honour only previously given to Jim Clark.
There would be no more Ferrari wins until Michael Schumacher's 1997 victory. In 1996, the German put a Maranello car on pole but failed to finish what was a crazy race, with only four cars seeing the flag, including the Ligier of winner Olivier Panis, who had started from 14th. The following year, Schumacher produced a master class in the wet at the wheel of the F310B. He finished 53 seconds ahead of Rubens Barrichello in the Stewart and over a minute in front of his team-mate Eddie Irvine. Two years later, Schumacher and Irvine finished first and second, with 2001 seeing Michael take his fifth win in the Principality, equalling Graham Hill's total, just one short of record man Ayrton Senna.
In 2017, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen monopolised the front row, with Sebastian going on to win, beating Kimi by a little over three seconds. It was the German's second win on the streets of the Principality.
The only Monegasque driver to finish on the podium in his home race was Louis Chiron who finished third in 1950, in the second ever F1 World Championship event. That's where Charles Leclerc finished in Bahrain this year and there's no doubt the driver of the number 16 SF90 would love to be on the podium in front of his home crowd this weekend.
Charles Leclerc: "The news about Niki Lauda came as a shock to me and to everyone. Whenever we met in the paddock, he was always kind, always willing to talk. He was a great champion and his personality will be much missed in our sport.
It's my first home GP as a Ferrari driver and it's bound to be a special weekend. I remember as a kid, I would spend the afternoon with a friend who lived in a flat with a balcony overlooking the Ste. Devote corner. We used to play with toy cars while the real ones rushed past beneath us. I always told myself that one day, it would be great to be driving in this race. And yes, that did happen and the fact I'm taking part in a Ferrari this year means I can honestly talk about a dream come true.
To do well in Monaco, you need everything in place, from courage to bravura, from luck to having a competitive car. I hope I can put on a good show in front of my own people and I will definitely be giving it my best shot."
Sebastian Vettel: "Niki leaves a void that will be difficult to fill. He was a genuine motor racing icon. Nevertheless, we are here to race.
There's no doubt that Monaco is the most iconic race of the season, driving uphill at first and then down through the city streets, before going through the very quick tunnel in the dark, coming out into the port section. It's really unique. For the drivers and engineers, this bumpy track is a world away from the circuits we are used to and that makes it even more challenging. The cars need maximum aero downforce and a set-up that gives the driver the confidence needed to brush the walls to chase the fastest lap time.
There's no room for error in Monaco and with just seven corners and no real straight, overtaking is almost impossible. That's why it's vital to qualify well. The track is so short that, in free practice and qualifying, there's always traffic. You just have to keep going to try and find a clean lap."
Mattia Binotto Team Principal: "The run up to this Monaco Grand Prix has been perturbed by our sadness at the news of Niki's death. His straightforward no nonsense approach will be missed in Formula 1 and it will seem strange for all of us not seeing him in the paddock. Niki was a standard bearer for Ferrari and for Formula 1 and he pushed through changes in motor racing that made it even more professional, being ahead of his time in terms of being a stickler for detail which is now very much a key element of our sport.
Turning now to this weekend's race, last week's testing in Barcelona and analyses carried out in Maranello confirmed just how much this year's tyres, which are very different to those we had in 2018, require different mechanical and aerodynamic settings to work properly. We are already working in Maranello on evaluating new concepts, as well as bringing some initial further updates here.
This Grand Prix is celebrating its 90th anniversary, as indeed is the Scuderia, which makes this weekend even more special. It's a very different sort of race, where the track characteristics that can shake up the order could be jumbled up still further this weekend. As usual, qualifying will be very important because of the fact it's almost impossible to overtake. Of course, Monaco is Charles' home race and we know how much it means to him. It means a lot to us too."
Check out our Wednesday gallery from Monaco, here.