The records books show that the Monaco Grand Prix has been a constant on the Formula 1 calendar since the series’ inception in 1950, but when F1 arrived on the scene, the race around the streets of Monte Carlo had already celebrated its 20th year.
The first ever Monaco Grand prix was held in 1929 when English Grand Prix driver and special agent(!) William Grover-Williams (good for my SEO keyword count!) took the chequered flag at Monte Carlo for the first time, having successfully rounded its now famous turns 100 times to win the first ever Monaco Grand Prix.
Since then, the majority of the circuit has remained unchanged, with the track of 2019 tracing the route of the original from the start finish line, round Sainte Devote, up Beau Rivage and through Massanet into Casino Square, down to Mirabeau and station/Loews/Grand Hotel (depending on your vintage) hairpin, through Portier and through the world famous tunnel before emerging at the the first part of the circuit that deviates from the one Grover-Williams navigated in 1929.
The remainder of the lap takes a course that deviates slightly after being remodelled in the early 1970s to both lengthen the track, but also to accommodate development work on the harbour front that include Monaco’s famous swimming pool.
Despite its history, many fans dread the Monaco Grand Prix. Why? Because for all its glamour and spectacle, the nature of the track – Nelson Piquet once described driving round Monaco in a Formula 1 car as being akin to riding a bicycle round your living room – does not allow for overtaking.
Which is a big problem in a motor race.
It almost guarantees (barring any mechanical or strategic misfortune) that the guy who leads round turn 1 is going to win the race, and as such the winner is effectively decided on Saturday afternoon.
Some fans have gone as far as to suggest that the Monaco Grand Prix is so misaligned with the Formula 1 of 2019 that it should be removed from the calendar altogether.
These protestations are often poopooed by the bods in Formula 1, who are too immersed in the spectacle of the Monaco Grand Prix event to be able to see the race from the viewpoint of your common or garden F1 fan watching from his living room in Newcastle or Birmingham.
When it was conceived it was done so around the cars and technology of the 1920s, and if someone proposed it to Liberty today they’d be laughed out of the room (putting to one side for a moment the fact that the peeps behind F1 would agree to a Grand Prix in Antarctica if the Antarctican government were willing to front up enough cash!) on safety, entertainment, logistical and financial grounds.
So does it deserve a place on the Formula 1 calendar?
What makes Formula 1 so interesting is the diversity of the tracks it races on. In an era when one guy – Hemann Tilke – is responsible for designing all new tracks that are in danger of becoming identikit versions of one another, a high speed Monza, a Singapore night race, or a tight and twisty Monaco Grand Prix around the streets of uber-glamorous Monte Carlo provide something different.
Does it make for great racing? No. But it’s a spectacle so unique that it deserves its inclusion despite this.
The Monaco Grand Prix reaffirms Formula 1 as the most glamorous and prestigious sport on the planet, with its multi-million pound apartments owned by canny tax-dodgers, Hollywood A-listers on a day-trip from the film festival at nearby Cannes, and the movers and shakes and their hangers-on sunning themselves on their yachts along the harbour-side.
From a promotional point of view, it’s worth its weight in gold.
And it provides a perfect contrast for the drizzly FP1 on Friday of the British Grand Prix weekend at Silverstone that most of us are used to.
So I was thinking. How do we keep everyone happy?
Well, one way would be to introduce a different format of racing specifically for the Monaco Grand Prix.
Like a time trial stage of the Tour De France, the Monaco Grand Prix could see cars setting off at intervals like the Isle of Man TT, the winner decided by the time taken to complete the 78 laps rather than the order in which they cross the finishing line.
This could add to the variety of the F1 calendar and re-introduce competition back into the Monaco Grand Prix that is currently missing for many fans.
And what’s more it wouldn’t bother the beautiful people on the yachts as they’re largely either not interested in the cars or too pie-eyed on champers to notice!
However, for this year at least, don’t expect too much action.