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

About this article

Series Formula 1
Drivers Stirling Moss
Author Charles Bradley
How Brabham’s one-hit wonder was boxed into a corner Prime

How Brabham’s one-hit wonder was boxed into a corner

The Brabham BT46B raced once, won once, then vanished – or did it? STUART CODLING reveals the story of the car which was never actually banned…

Formula 1
May 11, 2021
The changes Barcelona needs to provide a modern-day F1 spectacle Prime

The changes Barcelona needs to provide a modern-day F1 spectacle

Formula 1’s visits to Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya over recent years have been met with familiar criticisms despite tweaks here and there to the track to improve racing. With the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix largely going the same way, proper solutions need to be followed to achieve F1’s wider targets

Formula 1
May 10, 2021
Spanish Grand Prix Driver Ratings Prime

Spanish Grand Prix Driver Ratings

Often described as Formula 1's laboratory, the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona gave the clearest demonstration yet of the pecking order in 2021. And it's the key discrepancies from that order which illuminate who is excelling, and who needs to hit the reset button.

Formula 1
May 10, 2021
How Red Bull's deja vu set Hamilton on the winning path in Spain Prime

How Red Bull's deja vu set Hamilton on the winning path in Spain

An aggressive first corner move from Max Verstappen appeared to have set the Red Bull driver on course for victory in the Spanish Grand Prix. But canny strategy from Mercedes - combined with the absence of Red Bull's number two from the lead group - allowed Lewis Hamilton to pull off a demoralising reversal

Formula 1
May 10, 2021
The Barcelona practice times that prove Red Bull has hidden pace Prime

The Barcelona practice times that prove Red Bull has hidden pace

Lewis Hamilton led the way in Friday practice for the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix, but there was one major encouraging sign for Red Bull. However, making good on that gain will require Max Verstappen to avoid repeating a mistake that left him well down the FP2 order...

Formula 1
May 7, 2021
Why McLaren doesn’t doubt Ricciardo can escape his ‘dark’ place Prime

Why McLaren doesn’t doubt Ricciardo can escape his ‘dark’ place

Three points finishes from as many starts represents a decent opening innings on paper, but Daniel Ricciardo has endured a tough start to his McLaren career - only magnified his teammate's excellent form. Yet both he and the team have good reason to expect a turnaround soon.

Formula 1
May 6, 2021
What needs to “change” for Red Bull is ending Verstappen’s errors Prime

What needs to “change” for Red Bull is ending Verstappen’s errors

OPINION: Going up against the dominant force of Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton was always going to demand the best from Red Bull and Max Verstappen. But after making a couple more errors during the Portuguese Grand Prix, the Dutch driver showed there's a small gap he still needs to close in the 2021 Formula 1 title fight.

Formula 1
May 5, 2021
The "subtle" Red Bull upgrades that kept it in the Portugal F1 mix Prime

The "subtle" Red Bull upgrades that kept it in the Portugal F1 mix

Red Bull's Portuguese Grand Prix fortunes were decidedly second best to Mercedes', but the result skews the potential that the team had at Portimao. With a new set of updates, the team looks good going forward into the rest of 2021's spicy F1 competition

Formula 1
May 3, 2021