31 May 1981
With the teams in sombre mood, a solution had been found to the overcrowding problem (even greater here with only 20 grid positions at Monaco); a pre-qualifying session would whittle the field down for practice – both Tolemans, both Marches and Borgudd’s sole ATS (the team had reverted to one car but fired the underperforming Lammers) were the victims. Both Fittipaldis, both Osellas, a still-not-quite-fit Jabouille’s Talbot Ligier and, surprisingly, Hector Rebaque’s Brabham failed to make the cut on Saturday.
Rebaque’s team-mate Piquet managed to put his Brabham on pole, alongside Villeneuve, with Nigel Mansell a fantastic third in his new Lotus 87. Reutemann was fourth, Patrese fifth and de Angelis sixth in the other Lotus. Jones, Laffite, Prost and Watson rounded out the top ten.
When the lights went off, the usual scramble through the Sainte Devote produced the usual coming-together. This time Andrea de Cesaris and Mario Andretti were the two that ended up in the wall, while Piquet took the lead chased by Villeneuve, Mansell and the two Williamses. Mansell’s promise was cut short when a suspension problem put him out on lap 16, and Patrese’s gearbox gave up after 29 laps, prompting a flurry of retirements – de Angelis’s engine on lap 32, Arnoux hitting a wall on the same lap, and then two laps later Reutemann’s gearbox failed, forcing the Argentinian driver to retire, breaking his impressive points-scoring streak of 14 races.
Jones meanwhile had managed to get past Villeneuve and was
pressuring Piquet when the Brazilian slid into a barrier in traffic. With 23 laps to go, Jones motored into the lead and stayed there until he was forced to pit with a fuel problem on lap 67, just nine laps from the flag. He rejoined in the lead but Villeneuve was on a charge now and took the lead on lap 72, holding off the Williams for the last four laps to win his and Ferrari’s first race since 1979. Jones finished second, ahead of Laffite’s Talbot Ligier, Pironi’s Ferrari, Cheever’s Tyrrell and Marc Surer’s Ensign. Patrick Tambay had the dubious distinction of being the only one of the seven classified finishers not to score a point.
After the tragic farce of Zolder, the Monaco Grand Prix had produced some great racing, a popular victory for a well-liked driver and a shot in the arm for the sport.
|7||Elio de Angelis||5|
|=||Andrea de Cesaris||1|