Monaco GP

Monaco: The Jewel of F1

The Monaco GP is a mixed bag among F1 fans. There are those who love the glitz and glamour of the event, and then there are those that like good racing. 

There is no argument by anyone that Monaco is the most boring race on the calendar when it comes to on track action, however the fanbase seems very much split down the middle about removing it.

I’m personally split down the middle on the issue also. I find the race incredibly dull, but I love the fact that qualifying is so much more important and the entire spectacle of the event.

If it was removed I’d be about 50% happy and 50% sad. In this video I want to explore a brief history of the race, why it doesn’t work with current cars, why it basically cannot be adapted and then explore the reasons for and against continuing with the track to try give you, and me, a final opinion on whether this historic track should be around.

Similar to a lot of the current European races, their origin pre-dates the current World Championship of Formula 1, and started as a Grand Prix in 1929. Then President of the Automobile Club of Monaco (ACM), Antony Noghes, who were in charge of the Rally of Monaco at the time wanted their status as a club in the Association Internationale des Automobiles Clubs Reconnus (AIACR), then the international regulator, to be moved from a regional French club to full national status. While he had the support of Prince Louis II, then prince of Monaco, the regulator refused the application. The reason for this refusal is that the ACM had no event that ran solely within the principality of Monaco. The Rally also used roads which were part of other European countries.

Thankfully, Antony wasn’t the type of guy that gives up easily. He had a plan. A great plan. He decided to set up a race on the streets of Monaco, and thought a Grand Prix would be ideal. Thankfully for him, a local Grand Prix driver with influence Louis Chiron, for whom the modern Bugatti car is named, agreed that Monaco streets would make an epic race. The prince gave his blessing and the Monaco Grand Prix was inaugerated in 1929.

Ironically, Chiron couldn’t compete in the 1929 Grand Prix as he had a prior commitment to race at the Indy 500 that year. The race was instead won by W Williams in a Bugatti after Rudolf Caracciola and his Mercedes spent 4.5 minutes refuelling and changing tyres. A feat Bottas would handily beat in the 2021 Grand Prix. 

Chiron though would win the 1931 Grand Prix and still to this day is the only Monegasque Driver to win the GP. Unless you’re watching this after the 2022 GP and Leclerc finally actually finished the race. Prior to the war, the use of the term Grand Prix had become common to a point of ridiculous and the AIACR decided to give the status International Grand Prix (Grand Epreuves…butchering the language) to just one Grand Prix per nation, including Monaco, Spain, France etc. This elevated the status of the Monaco Grand Prix and would go on to make it a staple of the future World Championship. First though a small conflict took place in Europe and a pause was put on racing from 1939 to 1945.

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While racing had resumed in Europe 4 months and 1 day after the war with a Grand Prix in Paris, Monaco wouldn’t run again until 1948 due to financial reasons. However the good news for us F1 fans was that in 1946 a new association called the FIA was setup to replace the AIACR and decided to make Grand Prix’s the premiere class of global racing. 

Due to the death of Prince Louis II the race didn’t run in 1949, but was included by the FIA for the inaugural Formula 1 World Championship which took place in 1950 and gave Juan Manuel Fangio his first ever win. Louis Chiron, 51 at the time, came third in the race.

Whatever the case, the place of the Monaco Grand Prix as a historic race in the World Championship was cemented that day.

The track then was a little different to what it is today, but not much, which I suppose is one of the keys to our problem. However before we delve into those issues, let’s have a quick flick through the track evolution over the years and why it’s so difficult to change the layout today, which we won’t spend much time on because…well it’s probably pretty office. 

The track has only had small updates since it’s inception in 1929. In those days the Noghes, Rascasse and Pool sections didn’t exist. The tunnel was a lot shorter and given that these were times when Health and Safety weren’t even an after thought to racing, the track was a lot more open. Literally running through the streets as they were, with the harbour section not even having a fully enclosed barrier! This was not a race for the nervous.

After trialing a moved chicane du port in 1972, it was put back to where it is today the following year. In 1973 the track was updated to be more or less what it is today. The pool section was added, La Rascasse was put in place with the final corner becoming Noghes corner. After the founder of the race. By this point the tunnel section was also much longer than it originally was, however this was simply to do with construction in the principality given the lack of real estate space.

 In 1976 both Noghes and turn 1, Saint Devote, were updated to be extended corners with a slight kink and some, very little, run off added. Finally in 1986, the chicane du port was updated to what it is today as the Nouvelle Chicane, or new chicane. Since then the track has pretty much stayed the same. It has been re-profiled and updated slightly, such as the pit entry and exits being extended. However in nearly 40 years the track has more or less stayed the same.

There are realistically two simple reasons why it hasn’t been updated in those years. Firstly, the fact that Monaco is so small means that real estate is precious. There simply just isn’t the space to update the track. Secondly, historic tracks like this generally don’t get updated anyways. Sadly for the Spanish Grand Prix…but we covered that last week.

Now that we’ve covered the track history and of course the simple reasons why it hasn’t and basically can’t be changed, I told you that would be fast, it’s time for us to go through the reasons why this track should be kept and then why it shouldn’t. Let’s delve in.

The first and most obvious reason as to why we should keep this track is it’s history. It really is the crown jewel of the Formula 1 calendar. It was the second ever race in what we currently see as the Formula 1 championship. Second only to Silverstone. To remove this would be a kin to removing Spa or Monza, the only other two tracks which are still on the calendar. It was also the first street track and without it, we may have never had other street tracks on the F1 calendar. 

The atmosphere, even watching on the telly, is incredible. It’s like watching an episode of Ballers except with F1. Celebrities and Yachts everywhere, and without that sort of glamour we would have never gotten this incredible moment.

Another reason for keeping this track is that while the race itself doesn’t make for much overtaking. This increases the Saturday entertainment as qualifying becomes incredibly entertaining. Where you start in the race is generally where you finish. Obviously that’s not exactly true, but given the difficulty of overtaking, qualifying becomes about 80% of this race. If you qualify at the back, even if you’ve got the fastest car in the sport, you’re not winning the race.

This has given us both incredible qualifying excitement over the years and two Ferrari’s that have literally parked it on pole, creating controversy.

There might be more reasons for keeping this track, if so comment below, however it’s now time to put my critical hat on and be a bit of a dick. Let’s delve into the key reason not to keep this track.

Let’s start with the obvious. The lack of overtaking. There are realistically only two places on this track where you can make an overtake, unless you’re insane but more on Vettel in a moment, and even at these two sections it is a challenge. These are the Chicane where you can make a lunge if you’re close enough running through the tunnel and if you have…eh James?. The same is basically true for Rascasse and again you need…eh Mr. Hunt? 

Everywhere else on the track is extremely risky to overtake, past the point of it being worth even trying. That’s not to say drivers don’t and succeed, look at Vettel’s pass on Gasly last year. However generally speaking in most other places, including the hairpin, it generally ends in a large crash.

This is the greatest issue, on top of this the cars this year are even heavier and while some are a little shorter, it’s going to make them even lazier going into the slow corners which are…well basically every corner. 

Although the cars can follow closer now in theory. The issue is that they are even lazier in the slow stuff which means doing a lunge is probably even less likely.

To add to all of this, one of the main ways to spice up an other wise dull track is to sprinkle in some tyre strategy. However sadly, this is very much a one stop race and has been for a long time now. I was hopeful that perhaps these new low profile tyres would stop that. However after seeing what Albon was able to do at Australia and the tyre lives at Miami, I’m confident this will still be a one stop race.

So, should it be removed. After all of this I’ve decided, and let me know what you think below, that the answer is no. 

Sure there’s very little overtaking and it’s more or less just a way for us fans to glare at the rich and famous watching cars go vroom from their yachts, while we eat Doritos, drink beer and dread Monday morning, while getting pissed off that the distraction in life we’ve chosen isn’t providing ample entertainment on a Sunday. However that’s what we signed up for, a glitzy sport that is slow to change. In saying that it’s provided us with a year of banging racing in 2021, and progress is being made. These cars are much better. I know the attention span of us humans these days equals that of a goldfish and we want 24/7 constant action.

However I think this is one area where we should just allow a little history and glamour to win the day. Keep the race, hit the like and subscribe and then watch this next…

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