Monaco Grand Prix

2020 Monaco Grand Prix

The Monaco Grand Prix holds a special place in the FORMULA 1 calendar. Although Circuit de Monaco is universally accepted as one of the most dangerous circuits to race on, the Monaco Grand Prix has endured the ravages of time.

Most FORMULA 1 drivers not only are willing to risk racing in the Monaco Grand Prix, but also consider winning the race as a landmark in their career.

If Monaco had applied for qualification for holding a FORMULA 1 race today, its application would have been confined to the dust bin without a second glance. Circuit de Monaco falls far short of FIA’s safety regulations and race length by far.

Why then has Monaco endured in the FORMULA 1 for 91 years when most other proposed circuits are being rejected by the FIA?

In 2004 the FIA awarded the first Gold Medal for Motor Sport to Prince Rainer of Monte Carlo. In its press release, the FIA puts succinctly why it has awarded the Gold Modal to the Prince of Monaco. The FIA press release states that

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“A triumph of speed and control, of precision and daring around streets that forgive no error, that require relentless effort and concentration. No better place to demonstrate the talents of drivers like Moss, Fangio, Senna and Schumacher.”

Why is the Monaco Grand Prix so Special?

History and Tradition
The Grand Prix is run on the same circuit for 91 years, the same streets winding around the prime locations in the principality of Monaco. There have been very few changes made to the circuit.

Many of the changes have been implemented to increase the safety of the competitors. All of those changes have added a mere 160 meters to the original track used in 1951.

Winning the Monaco Grand Prix, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indy 500 across the Atlantic is considered as winning the unofficial Triple Crown. But Monaco would still rate as the jewel in that crown.

Nelson Piquet once said he hates Monaco because driving around the circuit was like riding your bicycle around your living room. Nelson Piquet once said he takes driving on the Circuit de Monaco but added that “a victory there was worth two wins anywhere else.”

Every F1 driver knows that the Circuit de Monaco is risky. But no driver would miss the race if he could help it. In Michael Schumacher’s words, driving on the circuit “is justifiable once a year, especially as the circuit is so much fun to drive.”

Driving Challenges
It is a given that overtaking Circuit de Monaco is difficult. That is because drivers have to concentrate on avoiding hitting crashing into the walls and bouncing off the kerbs along the narrow strips.

In the struggle to keep from having to abandon to race altogether, drivers have little time to think of overtaking. In short, the pilots have to concentrate from the moment they leave their pits to the moment they cross the finish line.

The Monaco Grand Prix is more about the driver’s racing skills than the power of their cars. That is what makes the Monaco Grand Prix the most interesting Grand Prix venue in the world.

As David Coulthard put it, “The tricky bit starts when you leave the garage and it continues till the race finishes. There are no long straights which allow a driver to get too far away from the competition.

Circuit de Monaco turns even more tricky when it rains during the Grand Prix race and it often does.

Aura of Monaco
Circuit de Monaco is between the Maritime Alps on one side and the Mediterranean sea on the other. The winding streets of the circuit are lined by a mix of antique buildings and modern ones.

A very few Grand Prix circuits are laid out on city streets with Singapore, Montreal and Melbourne being the exceptions. No other venues can compare with Monaco for ease of accessibility.

And then there are the rich and famous of the world who throng the streets of Monaco or perch on their yachts during the Monaco Grand Prix. The off-track entertainment and the after-hours events that Monaco has to offer are what constitutes a perfect weekend for any race fan.

When was the Monaco Grand Prix was first held?

In 1925 the Monégasques decided to hold a motor race contest with participants from all over Europe and if possible, the world. The erstwhile association of bicyclists and automobiles owners, the SVAM, had ceased to hold bicycle rallies since the First World war.

A general body assembly was called and the members gathered decided to rename the association the Automobile Club de Monaco (ACM).

The ACM held rallies of motor cars starting at several different points in Europe and converged on Monaco for the finish. The Monte Carlo Rally had cars starting in different locations throughout Europe and converging on Monaco for the finish.

In 1928, the ACM applied to the AIACR (the parent body of the FIA) seeking promotion as a national club rather than a regional club so that it can hold Grand Prix motor races. The AIACR turned down the application because no organised motor race was held within the boundaries of Monaco. The rallies, the AIACR contended, ran mostly through the other roads of European countries.

Antony Noghès, the then President of the club with the blessings of Prince Louis II, organised the Monaco Grand Prix. The Monégasque Grand Prix driver Louis Chiron agreed that Monaco’s topology would be ideal for setting up a street circuit. The first Grand Prix was held on 14 April 1929.

The first Monaco Grand Prix 1929 was an invitational race and although all the invited contestants did not take part, the race was well participated and was a great success. William Grover-Williams of Great Britain won the race in a Bugatti. Louis Chiron could not compete as he was participating in the Indianapolis 500 across the Atlantic.

Although Chiron competed in 1930, he finished second but won the Grand Prix the following year. Till date, he is the only Monégasque to win the Monaco Grand Prix. The Monaco Grand Prix was becoming a popular race and participation was on the rise.

With so many Grand Prix held across the world, the AIACR was selecting certain national clubs as affiliates and their races as International Grands Prix. In 1933, the AIACR finally recognised the Monaco Grand Prix as an International Grand Prix alongside the French, Spanish and the Belgian Grands Prix.

In 1936 the Monaco Grand Prix became a regular part of the European Championship.

Why were no races held at Circuit de Monaco from 1938 to 1947? In 1938 the ACM demanded that each participant pay an entry fee of $2450 as an entrance fee.

This prompted the AIACR to cancel the Monaco Grand Prix. The rumblings of the Second World War started echoing throughout Europe in 1939 with Germany threatening its neighbours.

With the outbreak of World War II, all motor racing events were suspended across all of Europe. Between 1945 and 1947 the Monaco Grand Prix was not organised for financial reasons.

A Grand Prix was held in Monaco in 1948 but the unfortunate death of the Prince of Monaco, Prince Louis II in 1949 prompted ACM to cancel the Grand Prix. Monaco was to return to Grand Prix racing the following year which was the inaugural year of the World Championship.

When did Monaco return to the Grand Prix calendar?

After World War II, the AIACR was renamed the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile). The newly formed federation classified different competitions, and one of the categories was FORMULA 1. Certain international races were chosen as the Grands Prix which would decide the World Championship.

The Monaco Grand Prix was chosen as one of the races that will participate in the FORMULA 1 World Drivers’ Championship. Juan Manuel Fangio was an Argentine driver and won the 1950 Monaco Grand Prix.

Juan Manuel Fangio was driving a pre-war Alfa Romeo and he dodged a multiple car pile-up and won the race comfortably, his first World Drivers’ Championship win. The 51-year-old Louis Chiron, a Monégasque Formula 1 driver finished fourth in the race, his best result in the World Championships.

No races were held at the Monaco circuit in 1950 and 1951 when the World Championship races were run to the Formula Two regulations. No races were held in 1953 and 1954 either in Monaco.

Since 1955, the Monaco Grand Prix has been a regular feature on the FORMULA 1 World Championship calendar. Followed by Maurice Trintignant who won in 1955, sterling Moss claimed the title in 1956. Fangio won again in 1957 followed by. Sterling Moss won two more titles taking his tally of Monaco Grand Prix wins to 3 by 1961.

Who was nicknamed the “King of Monaco”?

The Monaco Grand Prix was dominated by the Briton Graham Hill to such an extent in the 1960s that he was nicknamed “the King of Monaco”.

Hill’s love affair with the Monaco Grand Prix began in 1963 when he first won the race.

He drove a BRM P56 1.5 V8 for the Owen Racing Organisation. Hill went on to win the Grand Prix for the following two years becoming the first driver to win the Monaco Grand Prix three times in a row.

Graham Hill was to win the Monaco Grand Prix twice more in 1968 and 1969. The latter being his last FORMULA 1 Championship victory. Hill’s record of 5 Monaco Grand Prix victory’s was surpassed by Ayrton Senna of Brazil when he scored his sixth Monaco Grand Prix win in 1993. Ayrton Senna had won 5 Monaco Grand Prix in a row.

Who has won the Monaco Grand Prix?

Ayrton Senna was a daredevil Brazilian driver who broke into the FORMULA 1 scene in 1984. He first won the Monaco Grand Prix in 1987 after finishing second in his inaugural World Championship year. Circuit de Monaco was a challenging circuit and Senna embraced the challenge it posed.

Senna won the Monaco Grand Prix consecutively from 1989 to 1993 becoming the first driver to win the race six times and five times consecutively. Graham hill had won the race five times in the 1960s and was known as the King of Monaco. Michael Schumacher was to emulate him between 1994 and 2001.

Alain Prost won the event four times during his peak in the sixties while Sterling Moss and Jackie Stewart had each won the race thrice during the first two decades of the race.

Among the drivers competing in FORMULA 1 today, Lewis Hamilton has won the race three times. Sebastian with two victories and Kimi Raikonnen and Daniel Ricciardo with one each will try their level best to surpass the masters of yesteryears.

What fatalities have occurred during the Monaco Grand Prix?

FORMULA 1 racing is one of the riskiest sports in the world with drivers risking their machines and lives every time they enter the cockpit of their racing car. Circuit de Monaco also has the reputation of being counted among the riskiest circuits on the World Championship calendar.

Despite more than its share of spectacular crashes, only one fatality has occurred at the 66 Grand Prix held so far. In 1967, Lorenzo Bandini of Italy crashed after he lost control of his car at the harbour chicane and hit a guardrail. He died three days later in a hospital.

The impact sent his car in an erratic skid. The car hit a lighting pole and overturned hitting the straw bales which lined the harbour.
The ruptured tank leaked fuel which caught fire with Lorenzo trapped beneath the upturned car. The marshals turned the car right side up but Lorenzo had suffered third-degree burns on 70 per cent of his body. Mandini succumbed to his injuries three days later at the hospital in Monte-Carlo. Straw bales as barriers have been banned in FORMULA 1 ever since.

There have been many spectacular crashes at the Monaco Grand Prix with cars speeding around the winding streets scraping kerbs and skimming walls. Two FORMULA 1 drivers, Alberto Ascari (Italian) in 1955 and Paul Hawkins (Australian) ten years later, landed in the waters of Port Hercules after overshooting or misjudging the renowned “Chicane du Port”. Today the chicane has been renamed Nouvelle Chicane. While Ascari was rescued by a boat, Watkins had to swim back to safety.

In 2011, Sergio Perez of Mexico crashed during qualifying and escaped with a concussion and missed the next Grand Prix in Canada. Following Perez’s crash, the barrier he crashed into was moved back 48 feet. There is not enough space between the buildings lining the streets to afford drivers any leeway to get away with even the slightest of errors.

What is the Circuit de Monaco like?

Circuit de Monaco is one of the most challenging circuits in the World Championship calendar. The drivers have to concentrate throughout the 80 laps for they are not allowed any errors. One mistake might mean an overtaking or a crash and retiring out of the race.

There have been many spectacular crashes during a race in Monaco but one fatality so far. Several drivers have either retired because of crashes and a few have landed in hospitals Unfortunately there was one fatality on Circuit de Monaco when Lorenzo Bandini was trapped inside his upturned car and the car caught fire.

In 1925, the Monégasques were hurt by the AIACR’s turning down their application for recognition as a Grand Prix venue. Antony Noghès, a cigarette manufacturer and a member of the Automobile Club de Monaco took it upon himself to mark out a circuit through the streets of Monaco.

He had the support of the Moanagasques and the blessings of the ruling family of Monaco. The circuit he chose was a winding course through the narrow streets of Monaco and with many elevation changes. Even in the late 1920s with cars speeding at no more than 250 kph, the circuit was risky.

The circuit winds around the narrow streets of Monte Carlo and La Condamine and around the harbour (Port Hercule) with varying degrees of elevation. The many buildings of the commercial and residential area around Monte-Carlo make little room for runoffs.
The participants know that the slightest errors in misjudging a turn can result in a devastating crash and hence retirement from the race. That and the glamour that accompanies a race in Monaco make the event even more enticing for both the participants and the drivers.

The circuit has gone through many changes from the late 1920s primarily to increase the safety of pilots and the spectators. But it is essentially run through the same streets that hosted the first Monaco Grand Prix in 1929. The streets have been broadened where possible and several chicanes have been added to slow down the speed of modern cars.

The race starts clockwise on Boulevard Albert Ier and leads to the tight corner of Sainte Dévote a short distance away. The pilots then head uphill till they lower gears to tackle the long left turn at Massenet. They then quickly take a right-hand curve past the Monte Carlo Casino.

This run takes the cars to Casino Square which is 44 meters higher than the lowest portion of the track. The cars then snake around the Mirabeau Corner which leads then into the very tight Fairmont Corner. Here the cars slow down to a speed of no more than 48 kph.
The cars proceed downhill through the double right-hander called the Portier, before heading into the tunnel. While going through the channel drivers have difficulty in adjusting their eyesight from light to darkness and light again. The channel is just after the beginning of one of the three straights on the circuit.

The run being downhill, matters become worse because the down force of the cars is reduced by 20% because of the peculiar aerodynamics within the tunnel. The road being virtually indoors becomes treacherous when it rains. While the rest of the track is wet, the track inside the tunnel is dry making it dangerous for cars using “wet” tyres. When it rains, the track inside the tunnel is also made wet using fire brigades.

Shortly after they are out of the tunnel, drivers have to change gears rapidly to tackle the Nouvelle Chicane. This chicane has been a scene of several dramatic accidents because it is one of the rare places on the circuit where overtaking by modern F1 cars is possible. A short straight later the cars reach the Tabac.

The corner borrows its name from a tobacco shop that existed there. The Tabac is a tight left corner taken at speeds of around 195 kph. The cars accelerate up to 265kph past the Piscine, a fast left-right combination but change gears as they approach a more challenging right-left chicane. They go past the swimming pool Rainier III Nautical Stadium.

A short straight take the cars to a left turn which is immediately followed by a sharp right called the Rascasse. It is at this corner where Michael Schumacher is suspected to have deliberately blocked Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber in 2006. The two were on flying laps and that was the only way Schumacher could have prevented them from out-qualifying him.

On exit from the Rascasse, the pilots head towards the last corner on the circuit. Virage Antony Noghès is named after the organiser who helped hold the first Grand Prix on Circuit de Monaco in 1929. The only DRS stretch on Circuit de Monaco begins from the exit of Virage Antony Noghès and ends with Sainte Dévote. The straight is all of 510 meters long.

Is the Monaco Grand Prix worth attending?

As you would expect the tickets for the Monaco Grand Prix as well as spending the long weekend in Monaco are among the costliest in the world. The fun part of a Monaco Grand Prix is that an F1 fan with a limited budget can attend the much-vaunted race as well as the rich and the famous.

A Grand Prix race in Monaco extends from Thursday to Sunday unlike in other venues. Practice sessions are held on Thursday and continue on the ensuing Saturday. On Friday entry is free for all comers and support races are held in the mornings. The circuit is then open to fans.

Unlike other Grand Prix venues, at the Monaco Grand Prix tickets are sold either for one day or two days. Though it might be inconvenient to buy tickets for each day, it gives fans an option to choose different stands for each day and experience the race to the fullest.

Because the Grand Prix is held on the streets in the heart of Monaco large grandstands are not possible. The largest grandstands are located along the Harbour Hercule and make for a good viewing point. Preparation for the race starts a week before the event and most of the grandstands are erected then.

When is the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix?

The 2021 Monaco Grand Prix has provisionally been scheduled to be held from Thursday 20 May 2021 to Sunday 23 May 202. The timings for the events for the various days will be announced a few weeks before the start of the Grand Prix weekend.

We will therefore refer to the schedule announced for the Monaco Grand Prix 2020. All things going well, not much is expected to change in the schedule.

Where is the best place to watch the Monaco Grand Prix?

Admission prices to the Monaco Grand Prix are one of the costliest in the world. But there are entry tickets to general admission areas that can suit the budget fan.

Unlike at other venues, most of the tickets are either sold for one or two days. Although it might be inconvenient to book the tickets you can choose different seats for different days depending on the importance of the event and your budget.

Admission is free on Fridays when support category races are run. Children between 6 and 15 years are allowed free entry but you have to still book their seats. Tickets are the cheapest on Thursdays during the practice sessions on Thursdays.

On weekends a ticket at one of the cheaper grandstands will cost you €500. They range down to slightly less than €200 if you choose to watch the race from the Rocher hill general admission area. Z1 Grandstand is another free admission Zone and is in the harbour area and closer to the action.

All of the grandstands at Circuit de Monaco have benches or seats without backrests. You would do well to carry along a cushion. It is also advisable to check the weather forecast and equip oneself for rain if it is predicted. Only a small portion of the Grandstand T is covered.

If you intend to soak in the atmosphere of the Monaco Grand Prix, any grandstand from the Tabac corner to La Rascase is worth a look.

Grandstand A1
This grandstand is just on the inside of turn 1or Sainte Devote for the chapel located close by. From this stand, you can watch the start and the finish of the race. As Sainte Devote is a tight right-hand turn, there will be a rush of action with cars vying for a place in the race.

If you are seated in the top row, you can just turn around and watch the cars entering the harbour stretch of the track. There is however no big TV screen to keep you in on the race throughout the lap.

Grandstand B
Grandstand B may be considered for the Tuesday of the weekend as it is located on the difficult Casino corner and close to Hotel de Paris. After negotiating around the Casino curve the cars head down the slope towards Mirabeau.

The stand only affords the view of a small section of the track and the high pricing of the seats makes a poor choice for the racing weekend. The stand, however, has a big television screen that can keep you updated.

Grandstand C
This Grandstand located on the outside the Portier corner is located at a place where a lot of overtaking occurs. You can watch as the cars race towards the entrance of the tunnel where drivers have to adjust from daylight to artificial lighting.

Although you can watch the cars up close and slower, this grandstand lacks the atmosphere prevailing in the grandstands along the harbour front. With no big screen to watch the action, this stand could be a good choice on Thursday and Saturday.

Grandstand K
This stand is on the Tabac corner overlooking the harbour with views of the exit of the Nouvelle Chicane. From here you can watch the cars go past the Tabac corner (so-called because of an old tobacco shop that thrived at the corner) up to the entry of the Rainer III Swimming Pool Complex.

If you are seated in the topmost row in the largest grandstand on the circuit, you can see the cars race past the start-finish line and tackle the Sainte Devote curve behind. A seat on the north side of this stand will give you a good view of the circuit.

Grandstand L
Located on the southern side of the Rainer III swimming pool, this stand will get you close to the action on the Virage Louis Chiron. Close to the pits, you will get a good view as the cars prepare for the race.

Even though the grandstand seats are a bit pricey, a first-time visitor will get good value for the money over the weekend.

Grandstands N, O and P
All three grandstands are located over the harbour waters and overlook the Rainer III Swimming Complex. While Grandstands P and N are lower. Grandstand O is the highest grandstand on the harbour side of the circuit.

Grandstand O is as costly as Grandstands K and L, but if you are located high enough, you can get a panoramic view of the circuit. Binoculars will let you get to see the action in the pits. Grandstands N, O, and P all have giant TV screens.

Grandstand T
The second-largest grandstand at Circuit de Monaco, Grandstand T is located along the Harbour area and is opposite the pits. The seats in the upper area, though costlier, have a good view of the pits.

A place in the grandstand gives you a view of the cars as they take the last turn of the Swimming Pool Complex Chicane before the head down the slope towards La Rascasse. In grandstand T you can soak up the festive Grand Prix atmosphere in Monaco.

Grandstand V
This grandstand is located on the outside of the Antony Noghès corner, named after the organiser of the inaugural Monaco Grand Prix in 1929. It is a small grandstand and is worth a visit to one of the pre-race days.

A seat in Grandstand V will give you a view of the cars coming out of the La Rascasse curve and tackling the Anthony Noghes corner. Situated close to the track you can see the cars heading towards the start/finish line.

Grandstands X1 and X2
These are two small grandstands located just after the start of the main start-finish straight These stands are low and you will see the cars accelerate coming out of the Antony Noghès corner towards the start/finish line.

With no big TV screen, the seats in these stands are cheap and you are unlikely to see much action. If you take a seat in the X2 Grandstand you may get to see the start and finish of the race.

General admission zones at Circuit de Monaco

Grandstand Z1
A stand the only grandstand is on the inside of the short Harbour straight between the Nouvelle Chicane and the Tabac. Open only on Saturdays and Sundays, this zone gets you close to the action although the views are limited.

With lots of bars and restaurants in the zone, you may get a chance to sit. With the cheapest tickets on offer on the race day, you can absorb the Monaco Grand Prix atmosphere here.

Le Rocher
Le Rocher is a steep hillside across the track from the La Rascasse and is a bigger free admission zone at Circuit de Monaco. Open only on Saturdays and Sundays, you have to arrive before dawn to book a good place to view the race.

Locals book their places early. Pack some food and drinks as no amenities are available close by. There is no big screen to keep you in touch with the race so carrying a pair of binoculars will be a big help.

How do you get to the Monaco Grand Prix?

Nice Côte d’Azur Airport (NCE) is just 30 kilometres from Monaco and is connected to many international airports throughout the world. If you do not get a direct flight to Nice, book a flight to a major city like London, Paris or Amsterdam and take an onward flight to Nice.

Driving from a destination in Europe
You can drive easily along the highways of Europe to Monaco. You have to make sure that your vehicle or the car that you hire has international insurance coverage if you will be driving across borders.

Taking a train to Monaco
Intercity trains depart from Paris in France and Genoa in Italy for Monaco and take 6 and 4 hours respectively. You will have to book tickets early particularly on the racing weekend to get a seat on the trains.

Getting to The Circuit de Monaco
Staying in Monaco will be much beyond the budget of an average F1 fan. Renting a two-bedroom apartment along the racecourse will cost upwards of €1,200. Many fans choose to stay in the surrounding principalities around Monaco. Turin is hours driving from Monaco and Genoa is two hours as well.

You can choose to stay in Nice (20 km) or Menton (10 km) in France or Ventimiglia (25 km) on the Italian side from Monaco. Regular trains connect the three places as well as places farther afield to Monaco. Travelling from Ventimiglia to Monaco by train will take no more than 35 mins.

Buses leave from Nice and Menton every 15 minutes from 6 am to 8 pm and will take 60 and 30 mins to reach Monaco from the two places respectively. But busses can get crowded on race weekends. An express bus travels from the Nice airport to Monaco regularly.

What accommodation options are there for the Monaco Grand Prix?

Nice, Menton and Ventimiglia across the border are where most of the F1 fans stay during the racing weekends or the week itself. The advantages are that you will save on your budget and there is good public transport to and fro.

All these towns will be buzzing with F1 fans and you will not miss the festive atmosphere of the racing weekend. Nice by itself is an interesting old town with plenty of history, culture and some really beautiful beaches. You could spend a week exploring Nice alone if you have time on your hands.

In all of these towns, you will find accommodation for all budgets. You could even rent an apartment for a fraction of the price it would cost you in Monaco. You can also consider camping for the weekend. There are plenty of camping sites within reach of the railway station in these areas.

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