The day Senna was able to tame 'Il Leone' at Monaco in 1992

On this day 29 years ago, Ayrton Senna brought Nigel Mansell's winning streak to a shuddering halt with one of his finest-ever drives around the streets of Monaco.

The day Senna was able to tame 'Il Leone' at Monaco in 1992
Listen to this article

Monaco is known as being a nigh-on impossible place for anyone to overtake. While that characteristic has turned many of its grands prix over the years into dull affairs, in 1992 it made the race one of the most exciting in F1 history as Senna pulled off a brilliant victory.

Heading in to the weekend, Senna had known that his chances were pretty slim, with the Williams of championship leader Mansell having dominated the first five races of the year.

The Brazilian's only realistic chance of success would be if Mansell somehow hit trouble, which is why Senna knew he had to be in the right place to capitalise.

With Mansell and his teammate Riccardo Patrese locking out the front row, Senna understood that he needed to split the Williams drivers off the line if he was to hold out any hope of pouncing on Mansell.

And that is exactly what happened, as third-place starter Senna knew that he had to brake as late as possible in to Ste Devote to get ahead of Patrese. In the end, as the Williams duo played it cautiously, Senna braked so late he nearly ran into the back of Mansell.

“I went for it at the last moment going into the first corner so as not to give Riccardo any clue, because otherwise he would have closed the door, of course,” he said later.

“I got into second place that way. But the problem was to stop the car before Mansell turned in because I was coming so quickly that I thought he might not have seen me. But it worked out okay and it was a good manoeuvre, the only chance I had to make a place.”

Ayrton Senna, McLaren MP4/7A, Riccardo Patrese, Williams FW14B

Ayrton Senna, McLaren MP4/7A, Riccardo Patrese, Williams FW14B

Photo by: Sutton Images

Although Mansell was quickly gone, pulling away at around a second a lap, Senna in second place was already thinking the long game.

He knew that he needed to balance out going as quick as possible while also ensuring he didn’t burn out his tyres: because if Mansell did hit trouble then he needed to be ready to pounce.

“I knew there was no way I could beat him,” he said. “It was impossible with the superiority of his car. But you never know what can happen at Monaco. So what I tried to do was go hard enough to be in a position to benefit if anything happened to Mansell. Already early on, I was planning for the late race.”

At some point Senna knew he needed to save his car and his tyres; but it was hard for him to maintain focus and attention.

“I screamed at myself: pay attention, concentrate, don’t get distracted, you idiot,” he recalled.

Senna’s efforts all paid off on lap 71, though, when Mansell hit trouble. Going through the tunnel, the Briton had a sideways moment. Believing he had a puncture (it was later suspected to be a loose wheel nut), he radioed to the pits for a change of tyres.

Because it wasn't expecting him to pit, Williams didn't turn around Mansell particularly fast. Things were not helped by the Englishman stopping slightly crooked in the box because he was stopping with only three wheels working, nor by a subsequent delay changing the right rear.

Senna took the lead and Mansell’s charge began with seven laps to go. From more than five seconds adrift, the gap came down to 4.3, then 1.9 – and with three laps remaining they were nose to tail.

Ayrton Senna, McLaren MP4/7A, Nigel Mansell, Williams FW14B

Ayrton Senna, McLaren MP4/7A, Nigel Mansell, Williams FW14B

Photo by: Motorsport Images

But despite Mansell having the luxury of the best car and fresh rubber, Senna played a blinder. He positioned his car exactly where was needed to close off any overtaking attempt, despite some theatrical lunges and alternative lines from Mansell.

There was no room for Mansell to get past and in the end the laps ran out, handing Senna a sensational fifth win on the streets.

Speaking after his first defeat of the 1992 season, Mansell said: “I must compliment Ayrton because he pretty well second guessed every move I tried to do. He was very fair and he is entitled to do what he did.”

For Senna, there was some surprise too about having managed to pull off those nerve-wracking final three laps and overcome ‘Il Leone’, as Mansell had been nicknamed during his Ferrari years.

“When I took the lead my tyres were very worn-out, and I expected Nigel, who had new tyres, to catch up to me very quickly,” he was quoted as saying by the official Senna website.

“I didn’t know how I would keep the lead. I had to use all my knowledge about Monaco, and it was really exciting. I knew Nigel was going to try everything to pass me, and he was faster everywhere in the circuit.

“So, I tried to stay on the inside at corners. On the straights, the car felt like a dragster, with the wheels spinning in second, third and fourth gear. But I won and it felt good to tame the Lion.”

Ayrton Senna, McLaren Honda, 1st position with team boss Ron Dennis, podium

Ayrton Senna, McLaren Honda, 1st position with team boss Ron Dennis, podium

Photo by: Motorsport Images

shares
comments
Flexi-wings won't be "a game-changer at all" in Baku
Previous article

Flexi-wings won't be "a game-changer at all" in Baku

Next article

Sainz: Norris can take McLaren to the top in Formula 1

Sainz: Norris can take McLaren to the top in Formula 1
Load comments
The historic clues that offer hints of Hamilton’s next move Prime

The historic clues that offer hints of Hamilton’s next move

OPINION: Uncertainty over Lewis Hamilton's future has persisted since the race direction call that denied him an eighth world title in Abu Dhabi last month. But while walking away would be understandable, Hamilton has time and again responded well in the face of adversity and possesses all the tools needed to bounce back stronger than ever

Formula 1
Jan 26, 2022
What the FIA must do to restore F1's credibility Prime

What the FIA must do to restore F1's credibility

OPINION: The first stage of the 2022 Formula 1 pre-season is just over a month away, but the championship is still reeling from the controversial results of last year’s finale. The FIA acknowledges F1 has had its reputation dented as a result, so here’s how it could go about putting things right

Formula 1
Jan 25, 2022
The six subplots to watch in 2022 as a new F1 era begins Prime

The six subplots to watch in 2022 as a new F1 era begins

As Formula 1 prepares to begin a new era of technical regulations in 2022, We pick out six other key elements to follow this season

Formula 1
Jan 24, 2022
Why newly-retired Kimi Raikkonen won't miss F1 Prime

Why newly-retired Kimi Raikkonen won't miss F1

After 349 grand prix starts, 46 fastest laps, 21 wins and one world championship, Kimi Raikkonen has finally called time on his F1 career. In an exclusive interview with Motorsport.com on the eve of his final race, he explains his loathing of paddock politics and reflects on how motorsport has changed over the past two decades.

Formula 1
Jan 23, 2022
Unpacking the technical changes behind F1 2022's rules shake-up Prime

Unpacking the technical changes behind F1 2022's rules shake-up

Formula 1 cars will look very different this year as the long-awaited fresh rules finally arrive with the stated aim of improving its quality of racing. We break down what the return of 'ground effect' aerodynamics - and a flurry of other changes besides - means for the teams, and what fans can expect

Formula 1
Jan 21, 2022
Why F1's new era is still dogged by its old world problems Prime

Why F1's new era is still dogged by its old world problems

OPINION: The 2022 Formula 1 season is just weeks away from getting underway, but instead of focusing on what is to come, the attention still remains on what has been – not least the Abu Dhabi title decider controversy. That, plus other key talking points, must be resolved to allow the series to warmly welcome in its new era

Formula 1
Jan 20, 2022
The Schumacher trait that will give Haas hope in F1 2022 Prime

The Schumacher trait that will give Haas hope in F1 2022

Mick Schumacher’s knack of improving during his second season in a championship was a trademark of his junior formula career, so his progress during his rookie Formula 1 campaign with Haas was encouraging. His target now will be to turn that improvement into results as the team hopes to reap the rewards of sacrificing development in 2021

Formula 1
Jan 19, 2022
The “glorified taxi” driver central to F1’s continued safety push Prime

The “glorified taxi” driver central to F1’s continued safety push

As the driver of Formula 1’s medical car, Alan van der Merwe’s job is to wait – and hope his skills aren’t needed. James Newbold hears from F1’s lesser-known stalwart.

Formula 1
Jan 15, 2022