Truth be known, the Monaco GP is the vintage portrait of F1. It’s a one-of-a-kind symbol of nostalgia in Formula 1. It carries, over and above other things, a whiff of timeless appeal that may never die down or fade away any time soon unlike what modern F1 authors feel.
Though first up, some context!
Three things, besides others in our everyday lives, perhaps hold a bit more value and feeling than most others. First could be the discussion we tend to have over the dinner table with the rest of the family where we speak of our roots and our heritage and that sort of thing. The other, rather unfailingly so, are the valuable life lessons imparted and spoken with passion and substance by our grandparents. You may, for instance, forgo a great life advice shared by mum or dad but the things that your granny tells you are, largely speaking, are folded preciously in the heart and tucked in safely.
And finally, the surreal joy of holding a black and white picture, no Eastman colour, in one’s palms! It could be an old pic from the college days of mum and dad, from the times where they first met or could be a long lost picture of your own self just days after your birth.
The way one simply cannot outgrow time, one also cannot outgrow the appeal of the yesteryears. It can be subdued but not killed. Likewise, even though a dated and old racing track that the Monaco GP may be, it is highly unlikely that the modern contingent of Formula 1 is likely to break off its long-standing love affair with a one-of-a-kind racing venue.
There’s more to it than the fact that the first ever Monaco GP held was way back in 1929, a moment of time where one drove for no fewer than 100 laps- you read that right- covering a distance of 197.6 miles.
For starters, there’s something sizeably right that the racing track may have done for it to stay relevant in the sport for over nine decades since it was first arrived in the Formula 1 world. But while the 1929 contest was the first Grand Prix to be run at Monaco, which wasn’t a part of the FIA, it wasn’t until 1950 where, officially speaking, one saw “the” Monaco Grand Prix as one called it.
From that instance of time until the present day, the famous racing event in F1 has risen akin to some plush red-carpet-style ‘by-invitation-only’ Hollywood event. It’s a place where racing drivers aren’t just racing drivers; the moment they embrace the tightly barricaded, cramped-for-room street course, they become superstars.
The glitz, the paparazzi, the ordeal that the races often prove to be and the absorbing challenge of crossing the checkered flag have, collectively, raised the stakes of an event that the better part of the F1-viewing public quite simply, hails.
What has of course added to the appeal of the show-stopping F1 race, is the presence of celebrities- think Bob Sinclar, Bella Hadid, Justin Bieber, Chris Tucker, Patrick Dempsey, Paris Hilton, the Kardashians and whatnot amid a setting serenaded by princely yachts and astronomically expensive skyscrapers at the background.
The fact that you could, provided you’re a Kimi, crash out from a race and simply step into your yacht right next to the street course much to the awe of the viewing public engaging in play time with “One More Toy”, as it was called, have only added to the allure of the venue.
But to recanter from the perceived glib and glamour, it would make sense to take head on some of the nasty criticisms that one’s come to encounter about the Monaco GP.
“Overtaking here is next to impossible,” is the famous claim that has, perhaps, over the course of the past decade and a half, punctuated a prominent venue with pitfalls and lackings.
But to anyone even remotely aware of just what happened nearly a decade back in time, none other than Adrian Sutil, circa 2013, demonstrated what could be called a masterclass of overtaking at Monaco, and that too, around the hairpin bend.
Was that also one of the greatly underappreciated moments from the Monaco GP is a debate for another day.
Though, what’s clear is this: with McLaren’s Jenson Button marginally ahead as the fighting duo approached the big turn at the hairpin bend, Force India’s Sutil tightly sneaked into the outside of the Briton (lap 52), holding on to the racing line, to make a scintillating- if not daringly fast-pass at the hairpin bend.
Cult heroes like Senna have done more than the lap of gods here at the famous Principality; they’ve made daring and bold passes in the approach to the tunnel.
The other criticism that may have fanned the unwanted flame of Monaco being a touch overrated is that the pole sitter tends to usually take the race win. But that’s anything but the truth. 2021’s event saw Leclerc on pole but Verstappen as the race winner. 2017’s event saw Kimi Raikkonen emerge with an absolutely committed pole-clinching lap but Vettel as the winner.
So much of Monaco is stepped in forlorn moments as well as fantastical achievements that if there was a racing venue you’d remember for being agonising to some whilst being ecstatic to most others, then it won’t be factually incorrect to call Monaco as one.
From Leclerc’s disturbingly average record here at his home racing event, to Senna’s greatest qualifying drive (he’s also a six-time winner here), to Schumacher’s brilliance at the venue in the nineties to the image of Fangio, the first-ever winner at Monaco in 1950 with his monk-like concentration and poise, Monaco has quite simply upheld the triumph of the true racing titans.
Moreover, that Monaco has also produced events that have seen drivers crossing the checkered flag in the most dramatic and unpredictable fashions have also made the race a popular choice among fans. Reference to context being the 2018 event where in lap 28, pole-sitter Ricciardo complained of a sudden loss of power with Vettel’s Ferrari fast closing in, none thought that the Red Bull would even finish the race.
But as the famous Australian crossed the checkered flag ahead of Vettel by well over seven seconds in the end, despite driving fifty consecutive laps with 25 percent less horsepower proved that Monaco was- and still is- the ultimate triumph of the mentally tough.
Surely, with the coming up of new venues on the F1 calendar as the sport tirelessly experiments with finding new audiences and fan bases, the mystique associated with the noted European venue may have lessened somewhat. But to state that it’s all over for Monaco and F1 is only entertaining it for the heck of keeping up with the venue’s nostalgic quotient is overstating a cliche.
For all the great moments that Monaco GP has unfurled in the past and is yet to from an unmistakably talented F1 quintuplet- including Norris, Sainz, Leclerc, Gasly and Tsunoda, there’s so much more to happen, so much to look forward to!