It was 20 years ago today Olivier Panis, Ligier shocked F1 in Monaco

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Max Verstappen’s win this past Sunday in the Spanish Grand Prix was certainly unexpected, but it’s very likely a harbinger of things to come for the talented, 18-year-old Dutchman at Red Bull Racing down the road.

But 20 years ago today in Monaco, however, a race win happened in a Grand Prix that almost no one – not least Olivier Panis himself – could have seen coming.

Ligier hadn’t won a Grand Prix in 15 years (Jacques Laffite, 1981 Canadian Grand Prix) and Panis, in his third full-time season of F1, had only stood on the podium twice before – in abnormal circumstances of both the 1994 German and 1995 Australian Grands Prix, in second place.

Heavy rain dampened the track in-between the morning warmup and the race. And for proof this was 20 years ago, yes, they still had the morning warmup back then.

Starting 14th, Panis slowly but then confidently ascended up the order as the damp track began to claim its victims. Only 22 cars were present at the weekend – same as now – but between Andrea Montermini’s DNQ for Forti and then a series of accidents in the opening laps – including Verstappen’s father Jos in a Footwork, both Minardis (Pedro Lamy and Giancarlo Fisichella, who now race sports cars), future Ferrari teammates Rubens Barrichello (then with Jordan) and polesitter Michael Schumacher (in his first Monaco with Ferrari) – cut the field by six cars just at the end of the first lap.

Four more retirements later (Gerhard Berger’s Benetton, Pedro Diniz’s Ligier, Ukyo Katayama’s Tyrrell and Ricardo Rosset’s Footwork) and the field was down to 12.

Olivier Panis with arms aloft climbs from his #9 Equipe Ligier Gauloises Blondes Ligier JS43 Mugen-Honda 3.0 V10 to celebrate victory at the Grand Prix of Monaco on 19th May 1996 on the streets of the Principality of Monaco in Monte Carlo, Monaco.(Photo by Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images)
Olivier Panis with arms aloft climbs from his #9 Equipe Ligier Gauloises Blondes Ligier JS43 Mugen-Honda 3.0 V10.(Photo by Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images)

Panis, who’d survived the carnage, made a move of Ferrari’s Eddie Irvine mid-race that would go down in the record books.

The race looked set for early season dominator Damon Hill in his Williams Renault to claim another victory, his first on the principality, only for a massive and memorable engine detonation to occur out of the tunnel on Lap 41.

Another Renault-powered driver, Jean Alesi of Benetton, then appeared to enter the catbird’s seat before he retired with suspension failure 20 laps later.

That promoted Panis, in the Ligier Mugen Honda, to a shock lead and one he would not relinquish the rest of the race. David Coulthard finished second for McLaren Mercedes – he’d worn Schumacher’s crash helmet in the race in abnormal circumstances given the conditions.

Sauber bagged a rare double points finish with Johnny Herbert and Heinz-Harald Frentzen third and fourth in the two Ford-powered entries, their last year before becoming a Ferrari customer team and rebadging the engines at Petronas. Frentzen took the checkered flag in the pit lane, because at that rate, why not.

The craziness continued behind him with a collision between Hill’s teammate, Jacques Villeneuve, and the sole Forti in the race of Luca Badoer, at Mirabeau. Irvine crashed out as well; that triggered a multiple-Mika-car pileup that also took out Mika Salo (Tyrrell) and Mika Hakkinen (McLaren).

Such was the attrition rate, though, that Salo and Hakkinen still were classified fifth and sixth even though they failed to finish.

The official F1 website did this video last year – hosted by Peter Windsor – to recap the race. It’s linked here.

Reflecting on matters, F1 hasn’t had a French race winner since, although Romain Grosjean has come close on a number of occasions with the team now known as Renault, having then been known as Benetton (with pit stops as Renault, Lotus and Renault again since).

Panis pulled off a similar shocker at the 2011 Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring in a customer Peugeot 908 HDi FAP with Team Oreca Matmut, co-driving with countrymen and young rising stars Nicolas Lapierre and Loic Duval, the latter of whom is now an Audi factory driver.

But of those teams that ran in the 1996 Monaco GP, only four of 11 – McLaren, Sauber, Ferrari and Williams – live on today in their current guises.

The rest? Ligier became Prost Grand Prix, and folded after 2001. Neither Ligier nor Prost ever won another Grand Prix although Prost did secure a handful of podiums.

Tyrrell? You might know them as Mercedes AMG Petronas today, having morphed into BAR in 1999, then Honda, then Brawn, and then Mercedes.

Benetton, as noted, became Renault, then back to Lotus, then back to Renault.

Forti folded later that year, Jordan became Sahara Force India (pit stops as Midland/MF1 and Spyker in the interim), Footwork (later Arrows) dropped out in 2002 and Minardi became Scuderia Toro Rosso.

Guy Ligier? The legend died last August, although his name lives on under the Onroak Automotive constructor in France, for its Ligier line of JS P2/JS P3/JS P217 prototype chassis.

X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E
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Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.