Monaco is by far the most prestigious race on the F1 calendar. No wonder it is known as the Jewel in the F1 crown. The principality always throws some great races on its narrow streets with Safety Car, crashes and multiple car pile ups a normal feature of this event. At the same time, this is the race every driver wants to win in his career. Consequently, we get to see some of the greatest drives and breathtaking qualifying laps at this very circuit.
Here are 10 reasons why we love Monaco!
There is no doubt that Monaco is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and certainly the most beautiful on the F1 calendar. Located south of France, the Principality is surrounded by high mountains, making the track incredible to view. On the other side of the track we have the Mediterranean Sea and the harbour, both exemplifying an already beautiful sight. And how can we forget those million dollar boats which cramp the harbour?
If we ask you what is the second thing that come to your mind when you think of the Monaco circuit(first is of course, glamour), what would you see? We are guessing a sunny F1 circuit! Every time we come to Monaco, we get fantastic weather. Once in a while it rains, spicing up the action, but without rain, the race looks even more beautiful. The average maximum temperature in May, when the Grand Prix takes place each year, is 19.4o C, giving teams and drivers optimum conditions - warm enough for good grip and the engine, but at the same time, not too hot as in Malaysia or Bahrain.
Monaco first hosted a Grand Prix in 1929 - well before the first championship took place in 1950. The Grand Prix has a very rich history, with the best drivers in the world battling through the largely unchanged layout. The first GP was organised by the Automobile Club de Monaco in an attempt to get a national French status for the club. Their application was refused, with the authorities asking for a larger event.
The 1929 race was won by William Grover-Williams in a Bugatti, and was an invite only event. On several occasions, the race was cancelled, due to breakout of war, and the death of Prince Louis II in 1949, but the race was included in the first Formula One World Championship in 1950. The “most wins by a driver” record belongs to Ayrton Senna, who was nicknamed the “King of Monaco”, having won the prestigious race six times in his career.
The Circuit de Monaco is a temporary street circuit laid out on the streets of Monte Carlo, which takes about 6 weeks to build and 3 weeks to take down. It is race-ready for just weekend in a year. It’s one of a kind, and probably the most difficult circuit on the F1 calendar.
It’s tight nature attracts teams to use oversteer setups, while most modern circuits require understeer. It reminds us of the old circuits where there were no run off areas, and one mistake could cost you your life! The most iconic corner in Monaco, the famous hairpin, is the slowest corner on the calendar.
Talking about the general characteristics, the slowest circuit on the calendar requires a car with high downforce. However, being a street circuit, there is little load on tyres. Fuel consumption ain’t a problem either. Further, Mercedes’ power advantage will not play a crucial role at this circuit.
In general the circuit is a massive challenge for drivers(and mechanics if you end up in the barriers as you have to repair the car in tight confines of the garage). It is a very short track, at just 3.340km, and a narrow one. Elevation changes also make life difficult for drivers, and there are some spots which drivers must dodge, to avoid bumps and spins. Overtaking is very hard, and qualifying is always very important, but it’s not impossible to win from further down the grid. The first step to win - do not crash!
Another iconic place in Monaco is the casino tunnel. It is the only Formula One circuit with a proper tunnel after Abu Dhabi(where car go underneath a tunnel to exit the pitlane). You may argue that there is a grandstand over the circuit in Singapore, but it’s not actually a tunnel. Monaco is even more difficult for the drivers because of the sunlight which catches your eyes as soon as you leave the tunnel. The tunnel also provides very changeable conditions in the wet. In Belgium, for example, the track is so long that it can rain in one part of that track, but the other will remain dry. In Monaco, we don’t see this since the track is half the length of Spa. What we do see, is a short section of dry track in the tunnel!
Action and Chaos
Monaco provides fairly action-packed and chaotic races, even though there is little overtaking! Back in 1982, during the last few laps, Alain Prost crashed Renault while leading the race. Following Prost’s crash, Riccardo Patrese took the lead, but not for long as he lost his car in slippery conditions at the hairpin. Pironi then inherited the lead only to run out of fuel two laps later. De Cesaris and Dereck Daly briefly took the lead before joining the long list of retirements. In the end, it was Patrese who stood at the top step of the podium having managed to get restart his car after an earlier spin. Only five drivers made it to the chequered flag and it became known as the race that no one wants to win. The commentators even said that everybody was waiting for a winner at the finish line, and they didn’t seem to be getting one
You could say this is the same as the previous reason, but it deserves a separate section. We all like to see some crashes, and the Monaco GP is famous for them. Last year, we saw Felipe Massa crashing twice in the same manner (because of a technical fault, as it was later revealed) at the opening corner of the circuit, St Devote. And in the past, we’ve had Kamui Kobayashi jump his Sauber, and Sergio Perez crashing badly at the chicane after the tunnel. Back in the 50’s, we even had drivers flipping into the harbour! This year, we could see even more crashes, with the new generation cars sliding around a lot more than their predecessors. Surely, a lot of attention will be on Pastor Maldonado, who was once given a life time ban from racing in Monaco! In 2005, in World Series by Renault, the Venezuelan ignored yellow flags and seriously injured a marshal. However, at the same time, we can’t forget his two victories at the same venue in GP2.
The Home of Drivers (and many celebrities)
Being a tax haven, Monaco is very popular with celebrities and F1 drivers. With no personal tax, drivers can save millions which would have otherwise gone the drain in form of taxes. Nico Rosberg actually lived in Monaco for almost his entire life, and he often says that his parents drove him to school around the streets that the circuit uses. Being at home probably relaxes drivers as they now get a chance to sleep in their own beds at night. That feeling can sometimes be incredible.
Their Love for Motorsport
Monaco's motorsport routes go back to 1911 when the Monte Carlo rally kicked off, almost two decades before the country hosted its first Grand Prix. Each year we see Prince Albert attending the race and handing the trophies to the drivers on the podium, along with other members of the royal family. The Principality just loves racing, which makes the event even more special.
While post race/qualifying parties are normal in Formula 1, they take an all new level in the Principality. The Amber Lounge fashion show and Vijay Mallya's Signature party on board the Indian Empress are the two standout events. And how can we forget those girls in bikinis, lying adjacent to the racetrack?
by Jakub Kot