We’ve visited some great tracks already this season, but there’s always something a little bit special about the Monaco Grand Prix. Here’s why we love going racing in Monte Carlo…
It looks incredible
Even just one Formula 1 car making its way around the streets of Monaco is a sight to behold. From sweeping past the Hotel de Paris and the Casino, to blasting through the tunnel and then following the line of the spectacular harbour, it really is a stunning location for a race.
When you put 20 cars on track at once, it gets even better. Everywhere around the circuit, fans can get so close to the cars, while the cameras can similarly be inches away from the action as the drivers thread their way between the barriers.
An F1 car might not be able to hit top speeds or corner at its absolute fastest in Monaco, but the close vicinity of the walls and narrow width of the track just heighten the sense of speed and offer up a relentless challenge for the drivers, with no time to rest.
And it’s all set against some backdrop, with the Principality stretching up above the circuit and a harbour that is filled with luxury yachts. It’s fantasy stuff that feels like it would never be approved now, which just makes it all the more special.
The driver makes a difference
It’s true that the difficulty overtaking in Monaco can often lead to processional races, but to call it boring would do a disservice to the driver skill on show just to keep the car out of the barriers.
Even more so with the wide cars we currently have, there is so little room for error. So much of the circuit requires commitment, and in certain areas that even means the drivers pointing the car at the barrier on the inside of the track in the belief that it will understeer and miss the Armco.
Confidence is essential around Monaco, and without it you’re going to find yourself off the pace. While car performance still plays a role, this is one of those venues where a driver can still make a significant difference. Especially in qualifying, if a driver is committed, comfortable with their car and willing to take a few risks, the potential is there to exceed where the machinery would usually be on other circuits.
The flipside of that is it only takes a second to make a mistake. No matter how quick you are, and even if your car is performing well, if you make the slightest error it’s likely to result in damage, or at least contact with a barrier that will cost significant lap time. And if you’re out of position in Monte Carlo, it’s so hard to make up for it.
So many of the greats have won here
Another reason Monaco is so iconic is because so many of the greatest names have successfully risen to the test. When you think of past Monaco races, you think of Ayrton Senna’s record of six wins, of his sublime qualifying performance in 1988 (even though that didn’t result in another victory), and of Michael Schumacher matching Graham Hill with five victories.
Alain Prost, Jackie Stewart, Juan Manuel Fangio, Niki Lauda, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel – they are all multiple world champions who were multiple winners on the street circuit.
The records of so many greats – both past and present – in Monaco just add to the prestige of winning the race.
But that doesn’t mean it cannot throw up surprises from time to time. Jim Clark was one of the greatest in the sport’s history but never won around Monaco, while 1996 saw Olivier Panis take a shock win in a Ligier as just four cars were still running at the chequered flag.
It starts a day early
Now, don’t forget to set yourself a reminder, because if you’re on autopilot and tune in on Friday to watch free practice, you’re going to be disappointed. That’s because the Monaco Grand Prix weekend starts a day earlier than any other event, with media day on Wednesday and the first two free practice sessions on Thursday.
Friday is a day off when it comes to Formula 1 track action, which adds suspense in terms of trying to get everything right for qualifying, as the drivers have to wait an extra 24 hours to see if their changes after FP2 have had the desired effect. But then they do get some more time to attend some of the glamorous events taking place around the Principality, so I’m sure they’re delighted about that…
It does take the pressure off the teams somewhat in terms of preparing for Saturday’s running, but racing is still going on as the Formula 2 feature race takes centre stage on Friday.
One of the backstories to the Thursday practice centres around a local market taking place on the Friday in the past, but however the tradition originated it’s simply an extra day to see cars running on track, so what’s not to love?
It’s the place people want to be seen
We’ve already referenced some of the spectacular yachts that are moored in the harbour during the race weekend, and quite often they will house some of the biggest celebrities.
As a race that features numerous high-end events around it, the Monaco Grand Prix is the place to be seen for A-listers. The grid is always packed with elite athletes, film stars, artists, models, designers and so many more, all keen to be part of one of the most glamorous weekends on the sporting calendar.
But it’s not only an event that caters to the rich and famous. Sure, if you attend as a fan you probably wouldn’t mind a bit of extra spending money, but the track itself opens up on every single evening during the race weekend, with the final sector closed to traffic as it essentially becomes one big dance floor for all of the bars that line the circuit from the Swimming Pool to Rascasse.
Originally published by Chris Medland at Formula1.com