IT'S GLITZ and glamour, with history and prestige in every corner. Welcome back to the streets of Monaco.
Known as the “Crown Jewel of F1,” Monaco has been an integral part of motorsport history. It is part of the famed Triple Crown of Motorsport, and it’s the race that every single driver wants to win. To quote three-time world champion Nelson Piquet, “A victory there was worth two wins anywhere else.”
Teams prepare heavily for it and some would even release special one-off liveries just for this weekend. Check out some of those tributes in the recent years, along with McLaren’s 2021 Monaco-exclusive:
But what makes Monaco so special among all the other tracks that Formula 1 races on?
It carries a rich history
Monaco has been part of the narrative even before Formula 1 became the world championship that we know today. The first Grand Prix race held in the principality dates back to 1929, and the city has missed only four seasons since they became part of the official championship in 1950.
So many important figures in the sport have won on this track, with Ayrton Senna taking the most wins. This track has had its fair share of interesting events, and it holds the record for the least number of finishers in a single race. In 1996, only three were able to see the chequered flag and the winner, Olivier Panis, won from 14th on the grid.
Don't look for hometown heroes here, either. From its inception, only one Monegasque driver, Louis Chiron, has won in his hometown ⏤ a feat that another Monaco native, Charles Leclerc, has yet to replicate, as he has had bad luck in this circuit.
It’s a country that turns into a racetrack
Monaco is considered to be the second-smallest country in the world. They don’t even have their own airport! However, the whole country undergoes a yearly transformation for this special weekend, and they see their population grow by a large margin thanks to the arrival of the race spectators.
Dubbed by Bleacher Report as the “last, true old-style street circuit in F1,” this track makes use of the country’s roads that have been largely unchanged since the 1920s. It is admittedly not a track that’s built for modern-day racing, but rather, for the everyday use of its citizens. Despite this, the principality remains on the race calendar due to its heritage and prestige.
Formula 1 would definitely not be complete without Monaco.
It’s the only race on the calendar with a different schedule format
Given that the race takes place on the same road where Monegasques walk and drive on, the break on Friday allows for the public to make use of this road without much disruption. This break also gives time for local businesses to replenish their stocks in anticipation of the large number of racing fans descending into the little city state.
But did you know that the original reason for this Friday break is because of Ascension Day? It is a bank holiday in the principality; and while the citizens haven’t strictly followed it over the past years, the tradition to keep Friday free from any race festivities has been kept. As such, Monaco is the only race weekend with practice sessions happening on Thursday.
This street circuit is the ultimate test of a driver’s skill
Racing on street circuits has always been a challenge, but Monaco takes it to a whole ‘nother level.
It is both a physical and psychological test as the drivers have to keep their focus while changing gears around 48 times per lap in this 78-lap race. With such a narrow track, there is certainly no room for error. It’s a race filled with short straights and lots of turns.
Overtaking also poses a lot of risk in this circuit — which is part of the reason why, despite all the hype surrounding it, some would consider Monaco to be a boring track. Races have even been likened to a procession. Have we mentioned that the race also takes about 80 minutes to complete?
Due to the dearth of overtaking opportunities, the podium is usually won by the pole-sitter. While the circuit has seen some good wheel-to-wheel action (with Senna and Mansell’s 1992 final-lap battle being a prime example), this is considered to be a rare occasion.
Nevertheless, Monaco is still undoubtedly a tough track to take, and winning it puts you alongside F1 legends such as Graham Hill, Michael Schumacher, and Alain Prost.
Nothing compares to its allure
When you think of Monaco, you’d think of money, class, and luxury — and rightfully so, as it is home to some of the richest and most prominent people in the world. Can you imagine walking down the street and just casually bumping into Mika Häkkinen, Max Verstappen, or David Coulthard?
Aside from its famous inhabitants, Monaco is indeed a very picturesque city with the race happening right in the middle of it. Filled with great architecture and a harbor with extravagant yachts, Monaco is the embodiment of opulence, which has earned it the nickname, the "Billionaire's Playground."
The nightlife is also buzzing and with the right amount of luck (and connections), you might catch yourself partying with A-List celebs. Spotted in recent years? Will Smith, Jennifer Lopez, Bella Hadid, and of course, the F1 drivers.
And there you have it! This is just a quick guide to help you understand why Monaco is indeed the “Crown Jewel of F1” and why fans from all over the world have this race on their bucket list! Catch all the action live this Sunday as Formula 1 races back in the principality with a 40% audience capacity.
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