The Monaco Grand Prix: There’s Nothing Else Like It

The Monaco Grand Prix: There's Nothing Else Like It
The Monaco Grand Prix: There's Nothing Else Like It

Every year, right around this time of spring, Formula One decamps to the French Riviera for the crown jewel of the calendar – the Monaco Grand Prix. Say Monte Carlo and a collection of images springs to mind: yachts, sportscars, the glitz and glamour of one of the world’s most exclusive locations. Monaco is the cliché of Formula One, it’s the champagne-soaked poster child of the sport and one that lives and is reinforced by its stereotypes.

For the teams racing there, of course, Monaco is different. Monaco is a test of strength, willpower and resistance for drivers and crews alike: in the cockpit, it’s a relentless mental challenge, corner after corner requiring millimetric precision to avoid a race-ending rendezvous with the barriers; it’s pure performance, one of the places where the skill of those behind the wheel most comes to the fore. In the garage – the cramped garages, on three levels, with trees sticking through the floor and ceiling – mechanics contend with conditions they don’t experience anywhere else in the world – but cannot compromise on precision. Driving Monaco may be like “riding a bicycle in your living room”, but working in these garages could be described as being more akin to a crossfit workout in a broom closet.

Monaco is unique in every aspect: it’s a track from a different era, on which qualifying means as much as the race, a circuit on which the wider, larger F1 cars of today tread the same streets on which Jackie Stewart’s and Graham Hill’s slender machines darted. The paddock, away from the garages on the Quai Antoine 1er, is a world on its own, yachts bobbing quietly on the sea in front of busy hospitalities; the fans, ubiquitous, crowd the hill over Rascasse and every other open space – they’re the closest they can be to Formula One here. They’re as much part of the story as the cars on track.

Despite every challenge, Monaco is still Monaco.  Each crammed space, each oddity, is just making this race unique: for every fan, for every driver, for every team member, doing Monaco is a badge of honour. Because one thing is true to all those who experienced it: nothing ever feels like Monaco.

Alfa Hoping To Build On Miami Form

For Alfa Romeo’s Alessandro Alunni Bravi, Monaco represents an opportunity to build on the teams for after a stronger showing in Miami.

“Calling off the Grand Prix in Imola was ultimately the right decision to make, given the difficult situation the Emilia Romagna region endured. Our thoughts are with those who have been affected and who are dealing with the aftermath of the floods: and we are ready to join Formula One in contributing to the relief effort. We were of course looking forward to racing in Imola, and this is just giving us more motivation for this weekend’s race in Monaco. The extra week we spent back at base in Hinwil was used to continue working hard on improving our car and its performance as we head to Monaco. What has effectively become the first European race of the season will be where we bring the upgrades originally meant for Imola. With its iconic corners and scenery, the Monaco Grand Prix is easily the most famous Formula One race – and one where everyone wants to do well. Even more so than usually, the streets of the Principality are a venue that reward attention to detail and precision: we must build on the improvements shown in Miami at the start of the month and continue in that direction from Friday onwards.”

Monaco A ‘Home Race’ For Pierre Gasly

With no French GP on the 2023 F1 calendar, driving around the streets of Monaco will be something of a ‘home race’ for Frenchman Pierre Gasly.

“I’m really looking forward to racing in Monaco as it’s one of the biggest and most rewarding challenges of the season for us drivers. Without a French Grand Prix on the calendar, this race is as close to France as we get during the year and the support from the fans in Monaco is very special. The Monaco Grand Prix is world famous as it’s one of the most prestigious races in the world of motorsport and a race every driver wants to succeed in during their career. As a team, we’ll aim to keep improving and build off from our promising performance last time out and aim to come away from Monaco with the best result possible, which, must be strong points from both cars,” said Gasly.

Fresh Start For Esteban Ocon

After some disappointments in 2023, Gasly’s teammate Esteban Ocon is hoping Monaco represents something of a fresh start ahead of a busy run of races.

“While our thoughts remain with Emilia-Romagna, our racing focus turns to Monaco. Like Miami, we need to ensure that we have a smooth weekend and bring home deserved points. We’ve had a couple of disappointing race weekends this year so the team is focused on executing better races across the board. We are eager to get back out there and show our pace and show that we can compete with some of the top teams. Monaco is always an exciting weekend, one of the highlights of the season, and we will be looking to put on a good show for the fans,” said Ocon.

Max Verstappen Happy At Home Away From Home

Two-time World Champion Max Verstappen is just one of many F1 drivers living in Monaco, which makes this something of a ‘home’ race for him, with the Dutchman looking to repeat his win from 2021.

“I am excited to get back to racing this week. Not racing in Imola was the right decision and I know it was not taken lightly but some things are obviously more important than racing and this was one of those occasions. Looking ahead to Monaco, qualifying is so important there so we need to make sure we are as strong as we can be in that session. The circuit in Monaco is super tight, even more than other street circuits. So, nailing a quali lap here is extremely difficult but at the same time very exciting. The race is usually heavily dependent on the strategy as overtaking is almost impossible. And of course, I live in Monaco so it’s nice to go home every evening during the Grand Prix weekend,” said Verstappen.

Back To Back For Sergio Perez?

After winning on the streets of the Principality in 2022, Mexico’s Sergio Perez is hungry to taste victory here once again.

“My thoughts have been with everyone who has been effected by the floods in Italy. Sometimes racing isn’t important and the safety of everyone becomes the priority. We’ve had a weekend off, which means I feel very well rested coming into Monaco week. This is the race every driver wants to win growing up and I was lucky enough to achieve that last season. That has only made me more hungry to stand on the top step once again. The weather could be tricky again here, which means we have to maximise every moment we get in the car. It’s important we get our set up right and qualifying goes well to have any chance of winning on Sunday. I am massively looking forward to getting back onto this track, it’s a fun drive!” said Perez.

Nyck de Vries Hoping For Home Cooking

Another F1 driver who lives in Monaco is Nyck de Vries, and the under-fire AlphaTauri driver is hoping some home comfort helps him to turn the corner on what has been a tough start to 2023.

“Monaco is one of the highlights of the season, something of a home race for me as I live there, and it’s also very special in terms of the track itself and the atmosphere over the weekend. I am looking forward to it a lot, but naturally, for all of us in the race team, we will still be thinking about our colleagues back at the factory and everyone in the region affected by the terrible floods. Resilience seems to be very strong in the region and I have seen everyone working very hard, so I hope the situation will improve as quickly as it can.

“I’ve raced in Monaco before, in fact my first Formula 2 win came at the Sprint race there in 2017 and in 2019, I won the Feature race from pole position. It’s very special, but now being part of the main event in Monte Carlo is going to be very cool. When I’m driving normally around Monaco, I am reminded that for one week it’s a race track, especially the part from turns 5, 6, 7 and 8, basically from Mirabeau Haute, through the Hairpin and then Mirabeau Bas, just before the entrance to the tunnel, as I turn left there to head for my apartment. It means I even get to sleep at home. One year, I thought it might help me feel the racing environment more if I stayed in the team hotel, but it just didn’t quite work because then I only brought my toiletry bag on the scooter driving between my home and the hotel!” said de Vries.

From Clean Up To Rev Up For Yuki Tsunoda

After the Emilia Romagna GP was cancelled, pictures of Yuki Tsunoda helping with the clean-up efforts quickly circulated. Now the Japanese driver hopes to clean up in another way as he makes his third Monaco F1 start.

“We have been living through a very difficult situation in Faenza and the surrounding area, and it was impressive to see how everyone in the community was pulling together to do something to help those people really badly affected, and to clean up the city. But now my job is to focus on this weekend’s race and do the best I can.

“I had never raced at Monaco until my first year in Formula 1 in 2021, and last year I qualified 11th. There’s a very special atmosphere over the four days. I think it’s an enjoyable and unique track to drive, especially in qualifying. It’s all about confidence; how close you can get to the barriers and how much speed you can carry into the corners, and that makes Saturday very exciting from inside the cockpit. It’s the most important day, as it is so hard to overtake in the race. So, while I am preparing, I’m trying to find a set-up more suitable for qualifying, rather than over a long run.

“You need to have a lot of respect for the track, build up speed gradually and get as much track time as possible, while also considering that track evolution is quite big and the lap times usually improve significantly during each session. Overall, I think experience counts a lot in Monaco though and this will be my third race here, so I know how to approach it and I am definitely more prepared than I was the first time,” said Tsunoda.

Silver Bullet For Mercedes?

Mercedes have brought their long-awaited upgrades to Monaco, but will they be the silver bullet the team and fans are hoping for?

Toto Wolff isn’t so sure…

“Following the cancellation of the race in Imola, our thoughts are still with the people of the Emilia-Romagna region that have been affected by the terrible flooding. We have been saddened by the images but inspired by the rescue work of the emergency services and the resilience shown by the communities. We look forward to returning to Imola in happier circumstances next year.

“The revised calendar means that Monaco is now the starting point of the European leg of the season. It is a unique event but will still provide an opportunity to learn about the upgrades to W14 – but we also need to be careful not to draw too many conclusions from this one event. We are introducing the first step in a new development direction.

“It won’t be a silver bullet; from my experience, they do not exist in our sport. We hope that it gives the drivers a more stable and predictable platform. Then we can build on that in the weeks and months ahead.

“F1 is tough competition and a meritocracy. We are not where we want to be but there’s no sense of entitlement. It’s just about hard work to get us to the front,” concluded Wolff.

Monaco Fast Facts

  • Clocking in at just 3.337 km in length, the Circuit de Monaco is the shortest track on the current F1 calendar. The next shortest circuit we visit is Zandvoort, which is nearly a full kilometre longer at 4.259 km.
  • The race sees the highest lap count of any event with 78 tours of the circuit forming the Monaco Grand Prix. It is the only race that does not adhere to the FIA’s mandated 305 km minimum distance, measuring 260.286 km.
  • It also has the shortest run from pole position to the braking zone for the first corner, measuring just 114 metres.
  • Just 34% of the lap is spent at full throttle. That is significantly lower than the 43% of the lap at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico that is spent at full throttle, the next lowest total on the calendar.
  • Taken at just 45 km/h, the hairpin at turn six is the slowest corner F1 cars negotiate across the season. Being the tightest 180° corner on the calendar, special steering racks are used that allow for more steering angle.
  • With three victories around the streets of the principality, Lewis Hamilton is the most successful driver on the current grid at the Monaco Grand Prix. Fernando Alonso has taken two wins, whilst Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez have claimed one apiece.
  • From the seven races in F1’s inaugural 1950 season, only four of them remain on the calendar in 2023: the British, Monaco, Belgian and Italian Grands Prix. All four races take place on the same circuits they did in 1950: Silverstone, Circuit de Monaco, Spa-Francorchamps, and Monza.
  • The first-ever Monaco Grand Prix was organised in 1929 by Antony Noghès. The final corner of the circuit is named in his honour.
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