For obvious reasons the Monaco GP is a hugely important event for Renault, and yet despite many successes elsewhere the company had to endure a painful 17-year wait for its first victory on the streets of the principality.
After several near misses it finally came in 1995, courtesy of Michael Schumacher and Benetton.
Renault’s first appearance in Monaco was with the works car of Jean-Pierre Jabouille in 1978. In the early years everyone accepted that the turbo engine was not ideally suited to the slow-speed venue. However in 1982 Rene Arnoux put his car on pole, while Alain Prost led before an accident on a damp track in the closing laps.
The Renault V6 continued to figure strongly in the years to follow. Prost took another pole in 1983, Nigel Mansell crashed his Lotus while leading in the rain in 1984, Ayrton Senna took pole for Lotus in 1985 and led for a while in 1986. But still no wins came.
The drought continued in the V10 era. By 1991 the Williams-Renault was fast the field everywhere, but Mansell could manage only second both that year and in 1992, on both occasions behind the flying McLaren of Senna. Prost was on pole in 1993, and yet again Senna won.
In 1995, things finally came together. The new Benetton-Renault partnership hit the ground running at the start of the season, with World Champion Schumacher winning in Brazil and Spain. Monaco saw a fantastic battle for pole between the Renault runners, with Damon Hill ultimately taking it for Williams by the huge margin of 0.8s.
“My last run was the nearest to a perfect lap I think I have ever produced,” said a delighted Hill, whose father Graham had won the race five times.
Schumacher started alongside Damon, ahead of the second Williams of Monaco rookie David Coulthard, and the Ferraris of Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi.
At the start Hill held onto his advantage, but there was chaos behind as Coulthard found himself squeezed by both Ferraris, the three cars tangling and bringing out a red flag.
At the second attempt everyone got away cleanly, Hill soon settling into a handy lead ahead of Schumacher and Coulthard, who had been forced to switch to the spare car.
The race revolved around pit strategy, and it would soon emerge that Hill and Schumacher had made very different choices. Hill was 1.8s ahead when he came in for his first tyre and fuel stop on lap 24, leaving Schumacher in the lead. The longer that the German stayed out, the more obvious it became that he was planning a later pit visit, and a bold one-stop strategy.
Schumacher eventually came in on lap 36, a little before half distance, and he was able to retain the lead. Struggling with understeer, Hill briefly found himself in third, until Alesi crashed out.
Hill continued to press on, still hampered by the understeer. But it was a fruitless chase given that he knew he had to make a second stop, and Michael didn’t. He eventually came in on lap 52, and remained in second until the flag. Later the team discovered that a differential problem had not helped Damon’s cause.
Meanwhile up front Schumacher put in a faultless display to log his second Monaco win – and the first for Renault. Along with Hill’s second place, Renault was given further cheer by fourth for Johnny Herbert’s Benetton, making it a 1-2-4 result in the biggest race of the year. It had been worth the wait...