What Happened On This Day May 15 In F1 History?

From Keke Rosberg's win at the 1983 Monaco Grand Prix to the tragic death of Elio de Angelis in 1986 during testing at the Paul Ricard circuit in France.


By Ben Bush
Updated on May 21, 2024

Elio de Angelis Brabham
Elio de Angelis died following a fiery accident during testing at the Paul Ricard circuit in France.

What happened on this day, May 15 in Formula 1 history? Find out interesting facts and stories about Formula 1 on this day.


On May 15, Keke Rosberg clinched victory at the 1983 Monaco Grand Prix by opting to start on slick tyres despite the damp track conditions. While most drivers chose wet tyres, leading to early pit stops, Rosberg capitalised and secured a significant lead. Marc Surer, who also started on slicks, seemed poised for a podium finish, climbing from 13th on the grid in his Arrows. However, his race unravelled when he collided with Derek Warwick while battling for third at the first corner. Ultimately, Nelson Piquet and Alain Prost, who both started on wet tyres, managed to recover and finish second and third, respectively.


On May 15, 1986, Elio de Angelis died following a fiery accident during testing at the Paul Ricard circuit in France. The rear wing of his Brabham detached at high speed, causing his car to cartwheel off the track and over the crash barriers. While the impact did not kill him, the lack of marshals at the test meant he struggled to escape the burning wreckage, and he later died from smoke inhalation. Nigel Mansell recalls the incident:

Alain Prost and I tried to get him out, but the car was crackling and exploding and there was just no way. Poor Elio had no chance.”

The tragic circumstances of his death weighed heavily on the sport’s conscience, prompting FISA president Jean-Marie Balestre to implement several measures to improve safety. De Angelis is often considered the last of F1’s gentleman racers, known for his wealthy background and talent as a concert pianist.


On May 15, Ayrton Senna unexpectedly crashed out of the lead at the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix after dominating the early stages of the race. Devastated by the incident, Senna went straight to his nearby apartment, where he was found hours later, sobbing over the missed opportunity. He had built a 50-second lead after his teammate, Alain Prost, missed a gear and fell behind Gerhard Berger’s Ferrari. McLaren instructed Senna to back off, but this led to a lapse in concentration, causing him to crash at Portier. By then, Prost had overtaken Berger and went on to win the race by 20 seconds ahead of the Ferrari driver.


Just two weeks after the tragic deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna, Karl Wendlinger was left in a coma following a severe accident during Thursday’s practice for the 1994 Monaco Grand Prix. His car lost control approaching the harbour chicane and crashed into the barriers backwards at high speed. As a result, Sauber withdrew from the race. Wendlinger made a full recovery but did not race again that season.


On May 15, 1994, Michael Schumacher secured the first of his five Monaco Grand Prix victories, starting from pole position. He capitalised on a first-corner crash between Damon Hill and Mika Hakkinen to establish a comfortable early lead. His lead was briefly jeopardised when he nearly collided with the barrier after sliding on oil from Mark Blundell’s blown engine. Martin Brundle eventually finished second in the McLaren, despite having to pit to remove debris from his sidepods that was causing his engine to overheat.

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About The Author

Chief Editor

Ben Bush

Ben is our chief editor specialising in F1 from the 1990s to the modern era. Ben has been following Formula 1 since 1986 and is an avid researcher who loves understanding the technology that makes it one of the most exciting motorsport on the planet. He listens to podcasts about F1 on a daily basis, and enjoys reading books from the inspirational Adrian Newey to former F1 drivers.

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