How Moss mastered Monaco to beat the Ferraris in ’61

It’s one of the greatest drives in Formula 1 history, how Stirling Moss drove an underpowered, privateer Lotus to victory over the might of the works Ferrari in the 1961 Monaco Grand Prix.

Some years ago, for a piece in Autosport magazine, I asked him what it had been like to drive a racing car around the streets of Monte Carlo at the time.

He replied: “You could tell who was fast around Monaco – he’d bring his car back with white sidewalls. They used to paint the kerbs, you see, and if you brushed against them, you’d get white sidewalls! Then you’d think: ‘Christ, he must have been moving on!’

“The cars were narrower than they are today, but the kerbs were what you had to be wary of, because they were much higher than they are now. If you hit one hard, that was it. Actually, come to think of it, the wheels of a Lotus could fall off without touching one!”

Read Also:

As well as being incredibly funny company, Moss was always very honest about his driving, and his explanation of how he kept his concentration for a race that lasted two hours and 46 minutes was fascinating...

“I started from pole and I had the two Ferraris behind, and I remember thinking: ‘I’ve got to do the perfect lap from here.’ You can’t do a perfect lap at Monaco, well I didn’t manage one.

“It wouldn’t be quite right coming through the left-right, okay, try and do it from here, ang go again – this went on for almost three hours! It was quite a strain.”

Richie Ginther, Ferrari, Jim Clark, Lotus 21, Stirling Moss, Lotus 18

Richie Ginther, Ferrari, Jim Clark, Lotus 21, Stirling Moss, Lotus 18

Photo by: David Phipps

Stirling Moss, Cooper-Climax

Stirling Moss, Cooper-Climax

Photo by: Motorsport Images

It was the first World Championship race for the 1.5-litre regulations, and Moss’s Rob Walker-run Climax-powered Lotus 18 was giving away probably 40bhp at a time when they only had 200 or so.

“They were only three or four seconds behind all the time,” recalled Moss of the Ferraris. “I thought they were just playing with me. They were just sitting there: first Phil Hill, then Richie Ginther.

“I thought, ‘Well those buggers are just playing around, on the last lap they’re going to roar past me.’ They didn’t, so that was it!”

Moss ranks this win as the finest of a glittering career, and one that highlighted his mental powers and his race management perhaps like no other.

“Concentration is the required commodity for Monaco, and leading a race is so much more difficult than following,” he said. “That’s why I class ’61 as my best race. I got around that by focusing on trying to gain half a length here or there, and at the hairpin I was able to gauge if I’d lost time or gained it, so I was continually looking across as I turned in.”

Stirling Moss, Lotus

Stirling Moss, Lotus

Photo by: Sutton Images

shares
comments
The 'new' F1 drivers who need to improve at Imola

Previous article

The 'new' F1 drivers who need to improve at Imola

Next article

Why Sir Stirling Moss was ‘Mr. Motor Racing’

Why Sir Stirling Moss was ‘Mr. Motor Racing’
Load comments
Can Red Bull really win anywhere now it’s toppled a Mercedes F1 stronghold? Prime

Can Red Bull really win anywhere now it’s toppled a Mercedes F1 stronghold?

OPINION: Red Bull team boss Christian Horner reckoned Max Verstappen winning the French Grand Prix – an event where Mercedes had previously been dominant – would signal “we can beat them anywhere”. Here’s how that claim stacks up looking at the rest of the 2021 season

The IndyCar feature that Paul Ricard desperately needs in F1 Prime

The IndyCar feature that Paul Ricard desperately needs in F1

The French Grand Prix offered a surprisingly interesting spectacle, despite the headache-inducing nature of the circuit. But IndyCar's Road America race offered far more in terms of action - and the increased jeopardy at the Elkhart Lake venue might be something Paul Ricard needs in future...

Formula 1
Jun 22, 2021
French Grand Prix driver ratings Prime

French Grand Prix driver ratings

The French GP was a weekend decided by tiny margins both at the front of the field, as Red Bull inflicted a comeback defeat on Mercedes, and in the battle for the minor points places. That's reflected in our driver ratings, where several drivers came close to a maximum score

Formula 1
Jun 21, 2021
How Red Bull took French GP "payback" on a day of Mercedes mistakes Prime

How Red Bull took French GP "payback" on a day of Mercedes mistakes

The French GP has been a stronghold for Mercedes since Paul Ricard's return to the calendar in 2018. But that all changed on Sunday, as a clever two-stop strategy guided Red Bull's Max Verstappen to make a race-winning pass on the penultimate lap - for once leaving Mercedes to experience the pain of late defeat it has so often inflicted on Red Bull

Formula 1
Jun 21, 2021
The Mercedes lap that puts F1 victory fight back on a knife-edge Prime

The Mercedes lap that puts F1 victory fight back on a knife-edge

Red Bull led the way after the first two practice sessions for the 2021 French Grand Prix, but only just ahead of Mercedes. There was all the usual practice skulduggery complicating the performance picture, but one aspect seen at the world champion squad gave it a ‘surprise’ lift, as it looks to leave its street-circuit struggles firmly in the past.

Formula 1
Jun 19, 2021
How Ferrari got its F1 recovery plan working Prime

How Ferrari got its F1 recovery plan working

After its worst campaign in 40 years, the famous Italian team had to bounce back in 2021 – and it appears to be delivering. Although it concedes the pole positions in Monaco and Baku paint a somewhat misleading picture of its competitiveness, the team is heading into the 2022 rules revamp on much stronger footing to go for wins again

Formula 1
Jun 18, 2021
The joy that exposes F1’s key weakness Prime

The joy that exposes F1’s key weakness

Long-awaited wins for ex-Formula 1 drivers Marcus Ericsson and Kevin Magnussen in IndyCar and IMSA last weekend gave F1 a reminder of what it is missing. But with the new rules aimed at levelling the playing field, there’s renewed optimism that more drivers can have a rewarding result when their day of days comes

Formula 1
Jun 17, 2021
The F1 figures Red Bull and Mercedes can't afford to see again Prime

The F1 figures Red Bull and Mercedes can't afford to see again

OPINION: An interloper squad got amongst the title contenders during Formula 1’s street-circuit mini-break, where Red Bull left with the points lead in both championships. But, as the campaign heads back to purpose-built venues once again, how the drivers of the two top teams compare in one crucial area will be a major factor in deciding which squad stays in or retakes the top spot

Formula 1
Jun 16, 2021