Ah, Monaco. The supposed crown jewel of Formula 1 – or is it? The glitz and glamour of the French Riviera becomes home to Formula One for one weekend per year, and the race is deemed by many to be the “must go to event” of the season.
Only for Monaco, will Formula 1 adjust its schedule to run Free Practice 1 & 2 on Thursday as opposed to the normal Friday practice sessions. The purpose of course, is to reopen the roadways back to the principality local traffic.
Monaco is truly iconic and so very unique. Let us set aside the presence of royalty, celebrities and motorsport aristocrats. Let us set down the Dom Pérignon on the granite bar top on the second deck of the multi-million pound yacht in the Marina, littered with perfectly golden tanned bikini clad bodies for a moment. If one forces themselves desperately to look past the blindingly obvious, skipping the well to do social events and turning a blind eye to the blinding bling, some may disagree with Monaco’s high standing on the Formula 1 totem pole.
I surveyed a number of fans on the topic of the Monaco GP and the results were somewhat surprising. As a circuit, Monaco is rubbish – or so some may suggest.
It is a rather unpopular opinion, but it is nevertheless one that a few fans share. Very few get the opportunity to immerse themselves in the beautiful surrounds of seaside marvel known as Monaco for the Grand Prix. Prices are high, travel is expensive and accommodation is difficult to find on any budget. Therefore, television is often the closest many get to this race.
So what other justifications are offered then for what some consider harsh criticisms of Monaco? Well, in its heyday, several decades ago, the cars were slower and much smaller. They relied on mechanical grip which made aerodynamic setup irrelevant. Today’s cars are far more sensitive to aerodynamics and require higher speeds to keep them sucked to the tarmac. The tight and twisty bits of the Monaco circuit make it difficult for today’s cars to stretch their legs.
Overtaking is not impossible, as we’ve seen in the past, but it is certainly not easy. The circuit is too tight; a wet race invokes carnage; the curbs are too tall; et cetera. Some surveyed are disenchanted with Formula 1 because of recent changes and domination by one team or another, which may have played into their responses. They are afraid that Monaco lends itself to be too processional.
Well, I for one adore Monaco. Ask anyone in the paddock and they’ll tell you the same thing. As my friend Jordan Irvine said to me: “If there is one race you want to go to all year, it’s Monaco.”
This race poses a challenge to both drivers and teams unlike any other on the calendar. The circuit demands perfection and winning here is proof of skill and stones.
In an era of circuits many believe to be devoid of character, Monaco is refreshing, historical and iconic. I think I’ll go for another flute of perfectly chilled Mumm Champagne and hit the casino before the sweet sounds of Formula 1 reverberate throughout the picturesque principality once again.
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic.