What do we know about the history of the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Monaco? It is the most famous and prestigious race of the championship. Every driver dreams of mastering it. So what is the Monaco track and Formula-1 all about?
It is every driver’s dream to win the Monaco race. This is one of the most difficult and narrow routes, making beating your rival almost impossible, and with a risk of going off the track. Monte-Carlo is a maze of legendary turns that are now a part of history, including the Casino Square and the most famous “Hairpin” (an abrupt 180° turn on a short section of the road after a long straight passage which then turns straight again). This requires the driver to brake strongly and lower their speed. The most dangerous turn, the “Hairpin” is, however, the slowest one, taken at a speed of 50 km/h!
All in all, despite its danger and complexity, the Monaco track has seen fewer fatal accidents as the overall speed remains quite low due to the numerous bends and turns. So, who is the creator of this most dangerous Formula-1 race?
The instigators of it all are the French officials from the Association of Recognized Automobile Clubs (a forerunner of today’s International Automobile Federation, FIA). The above Association was established in 1904 in Paris. In 1925, the Monaco Automobile Club applied to register with its headquarters.
The Monaco Club, however, was refused a registration. The Association found it inappropriate to accept the tiny state that was not even holding a single race on its territory. At that time Monaco did host a rally, but it was not taken into account since all the Formula stages were performed on French territory.
Nevertheless, the Monegasques Alexander Nogez and his son Anthony would not take “no” for an answer. They decided to compete for the Club and came up with a project of holding a Formula-1 race right on the streets of the Principality, without building any additional tracks. They presented their project to the then ruling Prince of Monaco, Louis II, and the famous Monaco racer, Louis Chiron. The driver approved and fully supported the idea and the Prince allocated the funds for upgrading the roads. The first race of Formula-1 thus took place on the streets of the Principality in 1929.
The prize fund for the first race was established by Prince of Monaco, Louis II. The winner was awarded a valuable trophy of pure gold delivered personally by the Prince. This tradition has survived to this day. The second, third, fourth and fifth places were awarded 30,000, 20,000, 15,000 and 10,000 francs respectively.
The winner of the Grand Prix 1929 was William Grover, nicknamed “Williams”, in his “Bugatti” car. He managed the entire distance in 3 hours 56 minutes 11 seconds with an average speed of 80 km/h.
From 1938 to 1947, Monaco did not host the Grand Prix for economic reasons. The race was then cancelled in 1948 due to the death of the ruling prince, Louis II. The next race took place only in 1950. Since 1955, however, Monaco has been a regular of the Formula-1 calendar and the most anticipated stage of the competition.
The Monaco track is virtually the only one in the Formula-1 that has hardly undergone any changes since the 1950s. The changes that were made are fairly small compared to other countries. The basic configuration of the route remains unchanged since 1950. In 2015 the track was shortened by 3 meters, altering the three turns, No. 12, 13 and 14.
The Monaco track also has its stories. Monte-Carlo is famous for a turn called “Tobacco”, named after a small tobacco shop directly opposite. During the race of 1950 this turn was completely submerged by a wave coming from the harbor. The leader of the race, Juan Manuel Fangio, driving his Alfa Romeo noticed early on that the audience was not watching the legendary track, but was anxious about something happening right ahead. Since he knew that no one else was there, Juan Manuel prudently dropped his speed before the turn which saved him from some serious injuries. The turn kept the name of “Tobacco”.
The Monaco track is a real challenge for the racers. There is another dangerous spot at the port of Monaco. A few times the cars would fly off the track into the water. For the first time in 1955, Alberto Askari finished up in the sea. He eventually managed to come second, however. Sadly, that Grand Prix turned out to be the last for the Italian driver, who lost his life 4 days later on the Monzatrackin Italy.
Ten years later, Paul Hawkins, the Lotus team pilot, had the same misfortune.
Every year, the Formula-1 organizers make considerable efforts to secure the track. Safety cars are everywhere due to the high complexity of the route. In 2014, there were two more accidents, involving Sergio Perez, Adrian Sutil and Romain Grosjean.
The connoisseurs and fans of Formula-1 claim that the Monaco track has seen it all. In 1996, only 4 cars made it to the finish line under the pouring rain. It was then won by Olivier Panis, number 14! It was an absolute record for the Monaco track where overtaking your rival is almost impossible. However, this was the only victory for Olivier Panis. In 1998, Mika Salo set still another record, racing through the entire track without a single pit stop.
Among the legendary Formula-1 places in Monaco is the “Tip-Top” bar. This is an absolute favorite with all the teams. The place is full of photographs signed by different Formula-1 winners.
In the 1960s, Graham Hill, a 5-time Formula-1 winner, nicknamed “Mr. Monaco”, was another regular here. Over the years his record was eventually beaten. Michael Schumacher set yet another record that remains to this day, doing a lap in 1 hour 14 minutes 439 seconds. The Brazilian pilot Ayrton Senna also won the Monaco race 6 times in a row.
During the Grand Prix days Monaco is packed to the rafters. Celebrities and motorsport fans come here from all over the globe. Seats are booked many months in advance. Stands are built for the spectators all over the Principality and the price of a ticket depends on the location.
A little tip: if you do not have your own yacht, but would like to have an excellent view of the race, opt for the “Secteur Rocher”. This is a slope in Monte Carlo facing the first turn. The entrance fee is 70 euros only, nothing compared to the rest of the seats. It used to be a free viewing point before the authorities started charging for it a few years ago.
If you don’t get a spot on the stands,you can rent a special device called Kangaroo TV. This is a live broadcast of Formula-1 displaying up to 4 scoreboards at a time alongside with news and other useful information.
Monaco is not only famous for the Grand Prix itself. After a tight 3-day competition, Monaco throws its most prestigious parties, popular with celebrities, Formula-1 drivers and their fans alike. They are not easy to get into, however, as they are either very pricey or only accessible by special invitation.
The official Formula-1 parties are traditionally held at the Amber Lounge three nights in a row. The most prestigious event is on Sunday, following the final race and attended by celebrities and pop stars. The Friday party starts with a fashion show at the Amber Lounge, with Formula-1 drivers on the catwalk. On Saturday night, the Amber Lounge hosts an exclusive party on a yacht in the port of Monaco with the best DJs on board.
This is what Formula-1 is famous for. A weekend full of adrenaline from high-speedrace cars, the most professional teams in the world, crazy parties, magical moments and thrilling excitement!
For more information on the Monaco Grand Prix 2017, please see the website.
Now that you know more about the history of the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Monaco, you will surely appreciate the event even more.