Monaco is Formula 1’s most celebrated track, forming a mainstay of the modern World Championship since its inception in 1950. The circuit is steeped in history and nostalgia, retaining the same basic layout for almost one hundred years.
There is no doubt that Monaco is at the top of the F1 calendar. But what is it that makes the Monaco GP so unique? It’s a combination of place, history, tradition, location, and ultimately, sporting achievements.
Why Monaco Reigns
Monaco brings together a formula that brings almost guaranteed allure. The track is tight, twisty, and challenging, even for the best drivers on the planet. Overtaking is almost impossible, errors are punished with a consequence, and the track demands drivers to squeeze every last ounce of technical ability they have.
It also goes beyond racing. Monaco itself is home to the rich and famous. Its miniature size adds to the allure, the exclusivity oozing from every street corner. Its constitutional monarchy has brought worldwide attention since the 1950s when Prince Rainier married the famous American actress Grace Kelly.
Monaco is also known for its casino culture, the high life blended with risk, glitz, and glamour. The Monte Carlo Casino was featured in several Bond movies, including ‘Never Say Never Again’ (1983) and ‘Golden Eye’ (1995).
It’s no surprise that even online casinos attempt to re-create the sophistication and class that permeates these establishments, offering online versions of classic table games and slots, often bundled with bonuses to make you forget you’re not actually in Monaco.
Monaco’s Most Memorable Races
But when it comes down to it, the GP is nothing without the drivers and their races.
The Monaco Grand Prix has delivered some of the most talked about races in the sport’s history. And that’s why it reigns supreme. Here is just a small selection of the races that built and confirmed Monaco’s reputation worldwide:
Schumacher and the Parking of the Bus (2006)
Michael Schumacher is a legend, no question about it. But he’s also no stranger to controversy, seemingly often taking pride in taking the role of panto villain. And one of the races responsible for his infamy is undoubtedly the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix.
Here’s the skinny on what happened in 2006: after making an uncharacteristic error that would likely lead to the loss of pole position, Schumacher decided to stall his car in what can only be described as a ‘convenient’ position, thereby blocking the track and stopping Fernando Alonso from pipping him to top spot.
The stunt didn’t get him the result he wanted, with the German legend ending up fifth overall. The race was so controversial that Schumacher refused to answer questions about it four years after the event.
Five Leaders in Two Laps (1982)
In terms of the quality of racing, perhaps the 1982 vintage isn’t anything to write home about. But if you’re looking for sheer excitement and unpredictability, there are few races that will top this.
With just two laps to go, Alain Prost seemed to be in a commanding lead. Rain changed the picture, however, with Riccardo Patrese gleefully taking the top spot. He squandered his opportunity, with a slide across a bend and a subsequent stall dashing his illusions.
Didier Pironi, another one of the players in this tussle, surely he would take advantage? To the shock of the audience, commentators, and the driver himself, an electrical fault popped his balloon (and his car). Andrea de Cesaris suddenly found himself in the top spot, only to see his car run out of fuel.
Ireland’s Derek Daly seemed to be the recipient of his country’s famous luck, with little seemingly in the way. Yet in a series of events more at home in a wacky Hollywood comedy, his Williams car let him down and ground to a halt.
In the interim, the previously down and out Riccardo Patrese (remember him?) managed to bump start his car on a downward slope. He crossed the finish line, yet barely a smile. Why? The Italian believed he had only finished second, only to find later he had managed to secure a historic victory.
The 1982 GP was such a ridiculous run of events, that it was called “the race no one wanted to win”. The winner himself spent the immediate aftermath kicking himself for throwing away the win, annoyed at the flags and cheering, thinking people were merely giving him consolatory congratulations.
The Birth of ‘Mr Monaco’
Roger Federer and Wimbledon. Reggie Miller and Madison Square Garden. Messi and the Ballon d’Or. There are some relationships in sports that capture the imagination, and cement tradition.
1969’s GP is probably not Graham Hill’s most notable achievement, at least not if viewed in its own right. Nevertheless, it is the race that gave him the historic nickname, ‘Mr Monaco’.
Graham Hill made history in the 1960’s by winning the Monaco GP a record fifth time. It established his legacy as one of the all-time greats of F1, with only two drivers matching his success in Monte Carlo.
Their names? Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher. Not a bad bunch to share the spotlight with.
What Will 2023 Bring?
Monaco retains pride of place in F1, but its status is slowly eroding. While it still sits at the top of the mountain, critics believe it needs a rethinking. The track and infrastructure are showing their age, recent races have lacked excitement, and drivers are grumbling about the course.
What will 2023 bring? In any case, Monaco will never be without allure or controversy. Whatever happens in the coming year, it’ll be worth covering.