The Monaco Grand Prix is the race that best embodies the glamour, danger and money of Formula One. Each year the tiny principality in the South of France plays host to one of the greatest spectacles in motor racing, with cars tearing past multimillion dollar yachts atop the glittering Mediterranean Sea in Port Hercule. Drivers vie for space on a track carved from public roads that’s altogether too small for them. The many elevation changes and light-dark-light tunnel never fail to throw a spanner into carefully laid race strategies.
The Circuit de Monaco first played host to a race in 1929, long before the advent of Formula One as we know it today. Early supporters/competitors included Louis Chiron and Baron Phillipe de Rothschild with Chiron being the only native of Monaco to win the race. The 1929 running was won by William Grover-Williams driving a Bugatti Type 35B. The race has been part of the F1 world championship since 1955, but had no crash barriers whatsoever until 1969. That quirk lead both Alberto Ascari and Paul Hawkins to take unplanned swims in the Mediterranean. During the 1960s Graham Hill became known as Mr Monaco thanks to his 5 victories at the race. That record stood until Ayrton Senna reached 6, with five of those coming consecutively. Michael Schumacher matched Hill, but unsurprisingly nobody has matched Senna.
People say that were it not a beloved jewel of a race, Monaco would never be allowed to be added to the roster of modern, purpose built racetracks in the Formula 1 season. It’s too dangerous. It’s too much work to shut down public streets. That’s one of the things that makes it so special. Take the playthings of the fabulously wealthy and race them through the streets of one of the ritziest places in the world, past the casino and the harbour where the rich come to play. This is where Formula 1 belongs.