1. History And Romance
The romance of Monaco cannot be disputed. It’s synonymous with some of the most iconic names in motor racing. Think of Graham Hill – “Mr Monaco” – having won the race five times, sitting on the lawn with Princess Grace; suave, debonair. The streets have seen some of the best motor races ever. From Fangio in 1950 all the way through to the decade of domination by Prost and Senna in the 80’s and 90’s, the Monaco circuit is one of the most grueling tests of man and motor car there is or ever has been. Only the best are able to chalk their names onto the winners list: from Fangio, Moss, Brabham and McLaren, all the way though to Alonso, Webber, Hamilton and Button – the winners list is a real who’s who of the most talented men in motorsport. There are no interlopers here. No lucky wins – to be a Monaco man you have to be the best
There is no better party than an F1 party but an F1 party in Monaco is the best of the best. There is no race that sums up Formula One better – millionaires bring their yachts and young wives to the Principality. It’s the place to be seen at the start of the summer as movie stars make the short journey from Cannes to Monte Carlo to strut their stuff, drink champagne and be wined and dined by the great and the good of F1. It oozes glamour from every pore as the paddock and port make for a heady blend of mega-yachts, mega-parties and mega-bucks being spent. This year Roman Abramovich’s £1.5bn yacht The Eclipse is rumoured to be playing host to one such party. It’s a chance for us mere mortals to feel what it’s like for the lucky few…at night the music blares and scantily clad girls gyrate. What starts as a thing of beauty often ends as a garish assault on the senses, but that’s Monaco baby!
The streets of Monaco have seen plenty of skullduggery, at least that’s what some drivers believe. Only last year Nico Rosberg was accused of deliberately running wide during qualifying and bringing out the yellow flags, meaning his team mate and championship rival Lewis Hamilton was unable to challenge for pole. Rosberg’s not the first driver to find the tight and twisty streets of Monte Carlo somewhat ‘difficult to master’ under the pressure of Qualifying. Although Michael Schumacher won the race five times, matching Graham Hill’s record, in 2006 during a tense qualifying session Schumacher infamously spun his car blocking the track at Rascasse. His rivals were unable to beat his time as the yellow flags flew and pole position was his. Although he claimed it was a genuine accident, the FIA disagreed and demoted him to the back of the grid. While some races like Spain follow a pattern and could be called predictable, Monaco is definitely not one of those races. With over 80% of winners coming from the front three places on the grid, so the battle for pole sometimes gets a little heated to say the least.
4. Authentic Race
Monaco is one of three races in the world of motorsport that makes up the triple-crown. Along with the Le Mans 24 Hour race and the Indy 500 these are the toughest challenges man and machine can face. Once again, you have to return to the amazingly talented Graham Hill who is the only man to have achieved the triple-crown. Many think it is unlikely anyone else will ever repeat the feat, a little like John Surtees and his World Championships on two and four wheels. The time when a man could chase all three challenges may be gone, but the glory of winning any of the three lives on. These are special places, hallowed ground, and just stepping foot in these three cathedrals of motorsport you know you are somewhere special. You can almost hear the decades of racing, taste the champagne that has flowed from the podium year after year and hear the voices of those who have been so brave as to tackle the tracks but have not returned to tell the tale…in 1967 the streets of Monaco fell silent after the only death to happen in an F1 race there. Ferrari driver Lorenzo Bandini died as a result of severe burns he suffered when he lost control of his car at the harbour chicane. Many drivers have had close escapes around the Monte Carlo track including Paul Hawkins and Alberto Ascari who both crashed into the harbour exactly 50 and 60 years ago respectively.
5. Better Than The Rest
So why is the Monaco Grand Prix better than either the Le Mans 24 Hour race or the Indy 500? What makes it the greatest race on the motorsport calendar? It’s got style – something you just cannot buy. While Le Mans welcomes in thousands of people with open arms and treats them to thrills and spills both on the track and off it, very few millionaires will drop in to see some of the action. Yes, Patrick Dempsey will be there and the drivers are some of the best in the world, but sleeping on camp beds for a snatched 20 minutes or so can’t be seen as stylish in any sense of the word. As for Indy – yes, it’s big and brash and totally American. It’s an incredible thing to have driven and won and to have crossed that brick line but let’s face it, any race that culminates in a bottle of milk and not a magnum of champagne can’t be called the best race in the world. For me Monaco, for all its millions and mega-yachts, still carries the history and nostalgia of the real Formula One. The top three drivers don’t climb onto a podium having preened themselves in a little anti-room, toweling themselves down and swigging water; they pull up on the start/finish line by the royal box, jump out and are greeted by HRH The Prince and Princess of Monaco. It’s a unique end to a race and if it’s ok for the royals, then it’s more than ok for me.