19 May 1985
The 1984 race had seen thrilling action and the emergence into popular view of Ayrton Senna, but for a while over the winter it had looked as if the 1985 race might not happen at all – the race organisers had done a separate TV deal and FOCA played hardball, scrubbing the race from the calendar. However, cancelling the most glamorous and iconic race on the calendar, one which was loved by all the sport’s fans and – more importantly – sponsors, was never really on the cards, and eventually a solution was found.
The Tolemans were in Monaco to race, at the expense of Spirit: the Benetton concern, fed up with Alfa Romeo’s lack of progress, had come in as sponsors and had offered the impoverished Spirit team a deal they couldn’t refuse for their tyre contract. So Spirit took the money and withdrew, promising to be back next year, while the Toleman team, resplendent in their new Benetton (united) colours prepared to race. Their former lead driver, Stefan Johansson, was now in a Ferrari, and Benetton wanted an Italian in the sole car, so John Watson’s comeback was off and Teo Fabi returned to the team with which he had debuted in 1982.
Other than that, the grid was the same as at Imola and, after a cracking fight for pole between Senna, Mansell and Alboreto, it was the Brazilian prodigy who was on pole again. Cheever was fourth in his Alfa Romeo (the team perhaps galvanised by the possibility of losing their Benetton backing), ahead of Prost’s McLaren and Boutsen’s Arrows sixth. Rosberg, de Cesaris, de Angelis and Warwick made up the top ten, while non-qualifiers for the reduced grid were Ghinzani, Bellof (a shame for the man who had wowed the crowd the previous year), both RAMs and Pierluigi Martini, who had crashed badly on Thursday and injured his knee. There had been controversy late in the session when Senna was sent out again by Peter Warr on worn tyres to block others’ fastest laps, but he wasn’t keen on the idea and set second fastest lap instead.
Despite fears of more rain, the race began overcast but still dry, and Senna once again got away quickest with Mansell and Alboreto tucking in behind. The traditional first-corner melee saw a slow-starting Berger clipped by Tambay, who collected Johansson on his way into the barriers. The Renault and Arrows were out on the spot, while Johansson limped round to the pit to find his car too damaged to repair. His team-mate Alboreto, meanwhile, elbowed his way past Mansell and set about catching Senna (who had already pulled out a bit of a lead), and the British driver seemed to be having trouble as Prost and Cheever also passed the Williams shortly after. It wasn’t to last for the American, though – after 10 laps he pulled off with electrical gremlins. Leader Senna departed shortly afterwards, his Renault engine giving up after he had over-revved it in the warm-up.
Alboreto thus inherited the lead, about five seconds ahead of Prost, but further back there was trouble brewing. Riccardo Patrese was having one of his off-days and had been frustrating everyone with his erratic driving in the midfield. Lauda had got stuck behind him, but swiftly moved past, and now Piquet was getting ever more frustrated with his former team-mate. On lap 17, he spotted a gap and went for it, but Patrese simply moved over and shoved the Brabham into the wall, from which it rebounded and hit the Alfa Romeo, both cars disintegrating as they spun into the Ste Devote corner run-off area and scattering oil and debris across the track. Jacques Laffite, just behind in his Ligier, spun avoiding the accident and Teo Fabi had to come to a full stop in his Toleman before getting going again. Alboreto did the same, sliding on the oil and coming to a halt, getting the car going but allowing Prost to nip into the lead, while Lauda slid into the barrier and stalled before he even knew what was happening.
Alboreto wasn’t to be defeated though, and soon closed back up on Alain Prost before sailing past at Ste Devote on lap 24 and pulling away again, and now it was Prost playing catchup again, managing to keep the gap to a few seconds but not getting into a passing position. However, on lap 32, Alboreto slowed again, and Prost leaped past at the Swimming Pool complex, while Alboreto had to come in for new tyres, having picked up a slow puncture from the Piquet/Patrese incident. After a somewhat hurried stop, the Ferrari rejoined in fourth place but had a lot of work to do: Prost had a big lead over de Angelis in second place, who in turn was miles ahead of an impressive de Cesaris in the Ligier. Alboreto had Warwick on his tail but soon shook him off and reeled in the Ligier, spending a lap behind him before diving past and heading off after his countryman de Angelis.
He caught up on lap 61 of 78 and squeezed past but Prost was too far ahead to make a late charge for the lead, especially when drops of rain started to fall on the circuit and, remembering previous incidents of late rain-induced carnage at Monaco, drivers backed off a bit. The rain didn’t come to anything and furthermore, Prost’s car started smoking, so Alboreto started taking chunks out of his lead but it was too late; Alain Prost won the Monaco Grand Prix for the second year running, Alboreto took a fine fighting second and de Angelis third. Andrea de Cesaris brought his modified Ligier home an encouraging fourth, with team-mate Laffite sixth, the pair split by Warwick’s Renault. In fact, in a race usually known for its accidents and retirements, more than half the field – 11 out of 20 starters – had finished, with Lauda being the last retirement on lap 17.
|1||Elio de Angelis||20|
|=||Andrea de Cesaris||3|