Formula 1 is a sport that brings together more than 70 years of history with futuristic, cutting edge technology. Where names like Sir Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio are remembered for their greatness of taming primitive beasts, while modern greats like Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton are famed for redefining what it means to be successful.
In the last couple of decades, Formula 1’s owners have been on a quest to add new and exotic destinations to the sport’s calendar, replacing San Marino with Shanghai, and Valencia with Vietnam.
Lots of things have changed since the first official race of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship in 1950. Turbo engines have come, gone and returned.
Aerodynamics have developed from primitive horizontal sticks into a science that has millions of dollars spent on it each year. And technology has improved the safety of racing beyond what most thought possible.
Yet one thing has remained constant, the Monaco Grand Prix.
Monaco has always been a strange race. By modern standards it is short, with a circuit length of 3.34 km and a lap record of 1:14 compared to Silverstone’s 5.89 km and 1:25.
Yet in the early days of Formula 1, tracks were much longer. The old “Nordschleife” layout at the Nurburgring in Germany is 25.95 km in length, making Monaco stick out even more.
What Monaco offered was glitz and glamour. While other circuits were having cars race around old airfields and country lanes, Monaco let them get up close and personal with the wealth and prestige of Monte Carlo.
Essentially, all the things that make Monaco special today, were special back in 1950.
The Glitz and Glam
The glitz and glamour of Monte Carlo come from its high concentration of wealthy residents. It’s a place where you’ll find stores selling super yachts like an estate agent sells houses, and more super cars than the Le Mans 24 hours.
Another source of this glitz and glamour is the Monte Carlo Casino, which first opened in 1863 and has since been featured in several James Bond movies, as well as being a filming location for Ocean’s Twelve.
It also hosts a round of the European Poker Tour, which takes place every spring. In 2019, it had a Super High Roller Event with a buy in of €100,000, showing just how much the principality lives up to its wealthy reputation.
Nowhere else on the planet can Formula 1 get close to this world. Not even in the new street circuit venues like Singapore or Abu Dhabi, where the modern circuit standards have made them feel more clinical and distant.
In Monaco, fans can get closer to the cars than at any other circuit. Cars get closer to the barriers than at any other circuit. And the A-list celebrities get closer to the sport than at any other circuit.
At the end of each day, the barriers are opened up and the track becomes a giant dance floor for people to party into the night. That is a unique experience that isn’t available at any other circuit.
Former team owner, Eddie Jordan, told the BBC that Monaco was the race where he would get the most requests for tickets from sponsors. It is the race where everyone wants to be. This in itself makes Monaco a special race, as demand creates more demand.
A Driver Favourite
Despite occasional concerns over safety which has resulted in alterations to the circuit’s layout, the removal of trees, and the setting back of some barriers Monaco is still a circuit that drivers love.
Many believe it is the race where the driver has the most influence over their performance, as the power and aerodynamic effects of the car are less useful.
The fact that so many of the greatest F1 drivers have won in Monaco makes drivers want to succeed there. A win in Monaco puts you in the same class as Alain Prost, Niki Lauda, Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, and Jackie Stewart.
It’s no wonder Enzo Ferrari once said that winning in Monaco was like winning half a world championship!