According to some, watching an F1 Grand Prix in Monaco would be like watching a hamster pedaling around in its cage. By pointing out the boredom caused by soothing races, are these despisers committing a crime of lèse-majesté? What’s more, serene? The fact is that more and more of them want to change the situation in the country of casinos, where the 79th edition of the Grand Prix takes place on Sunday May 29. The great Lewis Hamilton himself shook up the venerable institution last season, saying that “Monaco’s format absolutely had to be changed to have more spectacle during the races”.
For the neutral observer, following the race is often equivalent, it is true, to seeing a train pass by with about twenty wagons behind it. Spectators reduced to the rank of cows? Not far away. In Monaco, overtaking is rare, very rare. City circuit, its narrow streets inevitably lead to limited opportunities to overtake. Here, no Mulsanne straight, you often have to wait for the opponent’s error to slip into a mouse hole. And if the driver in front does not make a mistake? And well it clogs.
This has always been the case in the streets of the Principality but the phenomenon has accumulated in recent years with the ever wider wheelbase of single-seaters. Even less room to pass, even less inconsiderate risks for the pilots to take. Especially since the price of a crushed F1, also in constant expansion, and now linked to a ceiling of expenditure in the year not to be exceeded, rather encourages people to slow down when carrying out a possible attack.. .
Finally, here more than on any other circuit, the author of the pole position has a clear advantage. Of the 68 Grand Prix contested, the author of the best time in qualifying has won 30 times, and it is common to see the poleman set off for a solo rider. But more than a wild ride, it often resembles a jog on the slowest track of the season. Slowness, lack of spectacle, absence of suspense, so many stones in the building of those who want to overthrow the Rock. And yet, it remains immovable.
“Nothing can compete with the glitter of Monaco”. In one sentence, Toto Wolff said it all. The Mercedes boss, like everyone else, remains fascinated by Monaco, with its unique glam and atmosphere. By the weight of its history too. Appeared in 1929 under the aegis of Prince Louis II, it responded to the challenge of creating world-renowned automobile competition in the second smallest state in the world (behind the Vatican).
The setting, sumptuous with splendor, was planted and the proximity of place and temporality with the neighboring Cannes festival served as a spotlight. The incessant arrivals of movie stars who jumped from the red carpet to the tarmac have finished anchoring Monaco in legend. The race is now broadcast in more than 170 countries, it is watched by nearly a billion viewers, and celebrities of all stripes flock there to show off. It took a lot if it was just a simple hamster class, right?
The stars always come to play #MonacoGP
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 26, 2022
Because the Monaco Grand Prix can also be magical. To realize this, do not dwell on the procession of cars which sometimes make you think of the passage from Sainte-Dévote to the Saint-Arnoult toll. The show is elsewhere. It is in the strategic finesse of the teams which make the most of the smallest square meter of bitumen to gain a few tenths, it is in this so atypical route which offers both the slowest corner (45 km/h) and the fastest (280 Km/h) of all F1 circuits. But it is above all in the art of piloting.
“Monaco is the circuit that distinguishes men from children”, Damon Hill once said. The Briton refers here to the qualities required to be crowned king in the Principality. Because it takes guts to set off in this way without any visibility, avoid any obstacles and get close to the safety rails that curl up with the track at full speed. On this last point, the Scottish David Coulthard slips a daring comparison: “The secret is to caress the rails without ever kissing them passionately”.
#OnThisDay in 1988 in Monaco, Ayrton Senna in McLaren MP4/4 -Honda RA168E #V6T took his 19th pole position in #F1 of 1.427 seconds over his teammate Alain Prost!!! (Video: @McLarenF1) pic.twitter.com/W6WietifZk
— Zdravko (@zdravkost) May 14, 2019
When the pilot succeeds, the magic is then unreal. You must have seen, once in your life, the qualifying round of Ayrton Senna in 1988. That day, the Brazilian, winner six times here, defied death and achieved pole position by sticking a second and a half of advance to second, Alain Prost! An absolutely unprecedented gap in F1 where places on the grid are generally fought over by hundredths of a second. “I wasn’t driving, it was God”, limited himself to commenting on a Senna in a trance after his feat. This is why the Monaco Grand Prix remains legendary. And sometimes even mystical.