Racing in the principality dates back the reign of Prince Louis II, who authorised an event in 1929. The current track harks back to 1950 and, since 1955, Monaco has been a regular and ever-popular fixture on the FIA calendar. There have been barely any alterations to the course in almost 70 years.
A unique entity, renowned for its glamour and luxury status, the circuit is the only one in the sport to evade stringent regulations, both of safety and length. While all other courses must be at least 305 kilometres in length, Monaco is just 260.
It also offers the rarest of spectating occasions. As drivers hit the Loews corner, which is overlooked by the lucky few viewing from the roofs of the Fairmont Monte Carlo or the hotel’s northwest-facing rooms, their speed is slowed enough to allow fans to stare directly into the eyes of their idols. It is something that does not happen often, particularly when average speeds can reach 370 kilometres an hour.
British drivers have traditionally performed very well in Monaco and several can count themselves among the most successful in its history. Lewis Hamilton, who drives for Mercedes, and retired David Coulthard have both won twice in the principality; Stirling Moss and Jackie Stewart took the title three times; and Graham Hill – nicknamed Mr. Monaco for his numerous successes during the 1960s – won an impressive five times. For the ultimate Monaco champion, however, we would have to name Brazilian Ayrton Senna, who triumphed a total of six times.
The extreme narrowness of the track, coupled with the elevation changes and tunnel section, which can be temporarily blinding for the high-speed drivers, makes Monaco one of the most technically difficult and demanding in Formula 1. Even for the finest drivers, there is no margin for error here, and complete and utter concertation is required for every split second of the 3.3km track if a crash into the barriers or even the Mediterranean Sea is to be avoided. That said, just two drivers – Italian Alberto Ascari in 1955 and Australian Paul Hawkins a decade later – have ended up in the port, both relatively unscathed.
Overtaking is essentially impossible and competitors must qualify in a strong position to be within touching distance of the win. Yet despite setting the fastest ever lap time in last year’s qualifier stage – 1:12.231 – Finnish and Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen was beaten by Mercedes’ Mexican driver Sergio Pérez during the main race. Checo’s fastest lap became in at 1:14.820 on the big day. Fans have just a few more days to wait to see who will be in prime position come Race Day on Sunday in 2018...
*Originally published in the #178 edition of Riviera Insider