May 15, 2013, 10:00 AM EDT
Keke Rosberg’s Monaco Grand Prix victory on this day 30 years ago was a classic example of a world champion seizing an opportunity to win in an unfancied car.
Rosberg had lifted the title for Williams in 1982 but the following year a turbo-powered car was the thing to have. Rosberg’s Cosworth-engined Williams was hopelessly out-gunned at most tracks. At Silverstone that year he led the non-turbo qualifiers but was a depressing 4.2 seconds off the pace.
But the tight, twisty confines of Monaco offered Williams a glimmer of hope. Rosberg wrung the neck of his FW08C in qualifying and planted it fifth on the grid behind the turbo Renaults and Ferraris.
On race day the weather tipped matters a little further in his favor: it rained, and the track was still damp and slippery as the start time approached.
While most drivers elected to start the race on wet-weather tires, Rosberg and Williams team mate Jacques Laffite opted for slicks. The call was spot-on: by the first corner Rosberg was already up to second, and as they began the second lap he pulled out from behind Alain Prost and crossed the line two-tenths of a second before the Renault.
The next time they came by Rosberg was a further second and a half up the road. By the fifth tour his lead was over 11 seconds and with the track drying out his rivals needed to pit for slicks.
Two laps later that had been done, leaving Rosberg with a 28 second margin over his team mate and the rest a further 20 seconds in a arrears. And still he continued to pull ahead, drifting the Williams between the barriers on the treacherous surface.
After 76 laps of racing Rosberg’s virtuoso performance was rewarded with his second career win. And anyone who doubted the credentials of a driver who’d won just once on his way to the 1982 championship had been given cause to think again.