The Monaco Grand Prix is special and needs to remain in F1.
The crown jewel of Formula 1 is in danger... this is bad news.
To the everyday bloke, the Monaco Grand Prix is synonymous with fame, money, and glamour. But to a Formula 1 driver, it is a challenge like no other. Darting around this 3.3km circuit with an average speed of over 100mph, millimetres away from the barriers is what these drivers come here for. And although the race may seem like somewhat of a procession, any Formula 1 fan will tell you it’s much more than that. The Monaco Grand Prix has been on the F1 calendar every single year since 1954 (apart from this year for obvious reasons) which makes it the 2nd most visited F1 track ever, just three races behind the iconic Monza circuit in Northern Italy. These many decades of service to Formula 1 have given us some incredible and unforgettable moments; the surprise win by Olivier Panis in 1996, Ayrton Senna’s incredible pole lap in 1988 or Jules Bianchi’s first points finish in 2014. The Monaco Grand Prix is so much more than just a race, it’s the crown jewel of Formula 1.
There is a reason that the Monaco Grand Prix is one component of the Triple Crown, and that’s because it is one of the biggest challenges any racing driver can face in their career. The best 20 drivers put their skills to the test for an hour and 40 minutes around the windy and narrow streets of Monte-Carlo. This circuit is so challenging it has even caught out some of the greatest drivers to grace the sport; Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, Lewis Hamilton, and Alain Prost to name just a few.
The reason Monaco is such a challenging race is because of the complete precision needed to keep the 1000 horsepower machines out of the barriers. Not to mention the drivers must do this for 78 laps, this requires immense amounts of concentration, the amount seen nowhere else on the calendar. Luckily to many of the drivers, this circuit is muscle memory rather than reaction speeds and concentration. After Ayrton Senna outqualified his teammate by over 1.5 seconds in 1988, he stated, “I was kind of driving the car by instinct, only I was in a different dimension… suddenly, something just kicked me. I kind of woke up and I realised that I was in a different atmosphere than you normally are.” This existential experience is something you rarely find outside of Monaco, simply because it pushes the human body to the extent where it seems you are no longer in control.
For this reason alone, I believe the Monaco Grand Prix should remain because in an era where people believe the cars are easier to drive than ever, Monaco brings us back down to earth to make us realise the immense skill that grand prix drivers possess. When we think of the greats of the sport - Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, Lewis Hamilton, Niki Lauda, Jackie Stewart, Juan Manuel Fangio – they have all won at Monaco more than once. This shows that succeeding at Monaco is much more than just luck. It’s pure, natural ability.
The Monaco Grand Prix is however much more than just a challenge for the drivers – it’s an incredible spectacle for the world to see. I can support this fact myself because arguably the Monaco Grand Prix is what got me so fascinated by the sport back in 2017. For new and intrigued fans, it offers an insight into a sporting spectacle like none they have ever seen, not even remotely close. What enticed me so much was the spectacular nature of the event, never before had I thought these cars would be able to race for 78 laps around a circuit 14 metres wide. And of course, the money and glamour of the whole event was something to be admired.
Among F1 fans, it is pretty much a given that a trip to Monaco for the Grand Prix is on most bucket lists, because although the race isn’t usually exciting, it’s a once in a lifetime spectacle. When it comes to ways in which to watch the race, all possible options require significantly deep pockets. To have a mid-range experience at Monaco, it will set you back £1,250 on average for the whole weekend. But for arguments sake let’s say you aren’t looking for an average experience and you want to park your million-pound yacht in the harbour, that will cost around £100,000 per day. You get the point, Monaco is built for the rich and famous and for the majority of us the principality is out of reach, however a bit of inspiration goes a long way.
Whilst we are on the topic of money, it seems logical to point out how much the race and everything around it contributes to Formula 1 aswell as the city of Monaco itself. Firstly, Monaco actually does not pay Formula 1 to host the race weekend, unlike many other places that pay in excess of £30 million to host a race. It may seem ridiculous that the country with the highest GDP per capita doesn’t have to pay for hosting, however, it really shows how valuable the race is to Formula 1 to maintain the status of fame and glamour.
Without fail you will see several Hollywood stars, global sportsmen, social media influencers and models parading down the pitlane with all eyes on them, and this is great for Formula 1 for two reasons: one is that these global superstars will then share their experience of the race and the whole event, promoting the sport, and secondly is it makes great TV for the fans watching all over the world! For the city of Monaco itself they also prosper from the global attention because of the influx of people attending the race. Over the race weekend, over 200,000 spectators come to watch the race, this is 200,000 extra people eating in the local restaurants, visiting the museums and generally contributing massively to the economy of Monaco (not that they are struggling to be fair).
Besides from the obvious economic and competitive advantages of the Monaco Grand Prix, it is simply wrong to erase all the incredible history and tradition that the race holds. As I mentioned earlier, the Monaco Grand Prix as gifted Formula 1 with some brilliant races and unforgettable moments. It’s impossible to label just one memorable moment however the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix will always be remembered as an iconic race around the principality as Olivier Panis won the race from 14th place as only 3 drivers actually finished the race – an indication of how challenging the race is. Other more obscure moments such as Alberto Ascari crashing and submerging his car into the Monaco harbour in 1955 have made Monaco a totally unique place for F1 cars to race in.
To put it simply, Formula 1 is nothing without Monaco and Monaco is nothing without Formula 1, as 2020 has shown. The book ‘Monaco: Inside F1’s Greatest Race’ by Malcolm Folley put it perfectly by stating, ‘win at Monaco and your name is etched in history’. The tight and twisty circuit has seen greats such as Graham Hill – also known as Mr Monaco because of his 5 wins in the principality – navigate their way to victory with millions watching around the world. The idea that this great event should no longer continue on the Formula 1 calendar is simply outrageous. It offers prestige, glamour, and fame for all those that compete, watch and attend and Formula 1 would never be the same without it.