Grand Prix de MonacoIn this blog, we will run you through the details of the Circuit de Monaco Grand Prix. The famous tricky street circuit is one of the most iconic tracks in the F1 calendar and a race that every driver wants to win. Every qualifying is key to a great Sunday, but few tracks surpass the importance of getting a pole position in the Monaco Grand Prix.

Practice sessions are very important in Monaco as drivers mitigate the narrow trajectory of various corners. Incorrect positioning of your car will result in clattering into the walls with no extra space for runoff areas.

The lap record is held by Max Verstappen with a 1’14.260 in 2018. Drivers go full throttle for 59% of the track, with the longest flat-out section being 669m. Pit lane time loss is estimated to be 16.4, unless your name is Valteri Bottas, who in 2021 got his right front tire stuck for a few minutes, forcing him to retire from the race after an unwelcome lap record.

What makes the Monaco circuit so iconic? 

Since the start of the Formula 1 world championships in 1950, the Monaco Grand Prix has stood as one of its most glamorous and famous races. The race circuit has many elevation changes, tight corners, and a narrow track layout that makes it one of the most demanding tracks in Formula 1 racing, with only a small portion of the lap being done at full throttle.

Graham Hill was known as ‘’Mr. Monaco’’ due to his five Monaco wins in the 1960s. Since the first race in Monaco, a lot has changed around the street circuit, mainly for safety reasons. Many drivers claim that they get an extra boost of adrenaline when they zoom through tight corners when compared to other circuits.

Monaco is a place of exceptional glamour and prestige, and it’s only fitting that the circuit lives up to the same standards. In a normal race weekend, practice sessions and qualifying are just as entertaining as driver thread their cars through an eye of a needle. It’s a well-known fact that when you start from pole position, you have a very good chance of winning the race, if you keep it away from the walls, of course. 

Who has been the most successful in Monaco?

5  – Nico Rosberg (3)

Rosberg emulated his father by winning around the streets of the principality for the first time in 2013, beating the all-conquering Red Bulls thanks to Mercedes’s lightning pace in qualifying. Monaco was one of the few circuits where the German regularly got the better of Lewis Hamilton. 2014 was relatively straightforward, but 2015 was anything but. Hamilton had qualified on pole and was way ahead of the chasing pack in the closing stages. The Safety Car was brought out and Mercedes thought that they could pit Hamilton for fresh rubber, but Rosberg and Vettel overtook the defending champion. That was the final win in Monaco for Nico Rosberg. 

5 – Sir Jackie Stewart (3) 

Sir Jackie Stewart is one of the Formula 1 icons of the sixties era, winning three times in Monte Carlo to go along with his three world championships. The first came in 1966, in his second season in Formula 1, as one of only four finishers of that race. Stewart’s smooth driving style was ideal for the streets of Monaco and for the spec of cars in that time, traits that made it possible for him to conquer the streets of Monaco on various occasions.

5 – Sir Stirling Moss (3)

Like his fellow Brit, Moss stepped up when he got in the car around the Principality. Sir Stirling Moss’s three wins may not seem too impressive compared to some of the other names on the list, but he competed in a total of seven races and just finished in four, thanks to the poor reliability during that time. Sir Stirling also won the Monaco Grand Prix with three different constructors, Maserati, Rob Walker and Lotus – which is still a record and includes back-to-back wins in 1960 and ‘61. 

4 – Alain Prost (4)

Ron Dennis and his McLaren team dominated the Formula 1 world in the ’80s, and early ’90s and their dominance was showcased more prominently on the shortest track. Prost won three of his championships with the Woking team and all of his Monaco wins, the first coming in a controversial circumstance in 1984. Prost was the first man to win three Monaco GPs in a row, as he had further success in 1985 and ‘86. This time much more routine victories. 

2 – Michael Schumacher (5)

One of the best drivers the sport has ever seen. His first win came in 1994 when he continued his perfect start to the season by crossing the line a full 37 seconds ahead of Martin Brundle; yes, Martin Brundle used to race before switching to becoming the famous commentator we all love. When Schumacher won in Monaco, he often won by a big gap; in 1997, he won by a mammoth 57 seconds. The win in 1999 was his final win before breaking his leg in horrific fashion at Silverstone, which ultimately ended his championship challenge. Despite Schumacher’s continued success through the early 2000s, he never won another race around the Circuit de Monaco, coming closest in 2004 before being taken out in the famous tunnel by Juan Pablo Montoya behind the safety car

2 – Graham Hill (5)

Stewart and Moss were both incredible around the circuit de Monaco, but the title of the Greatest Brit in Monte Carlo goes to Graham Hill. The only driver to win the triple crown managed to climb the top spot of the podium on five occasions during his eighteen years in the sport. Hill managed to win the Indianapolis 500, le mans and the Monaco Grand Prix completing the triple crown. The first came in 1963 for BRM, which started off a hat-trick of wins at the principality. This run included the 1964 victory where he won by over a lap, something unheard of in this era of racing. He won his final race there in 1969, some people argue that if it wasn’t for the injury that he suffered, he would have extended the record further. 

1 – Ayrton Senna (6)

This is one of the few most successful F1 driver lists where you won’t find Lewis Hamilton despite his world championship record, but his idol tops it. Ayrton Senna was arguably the best Formula 1 driver ever, and his racecraft came to the fore in street circuits, especially Monaco. The first win came in his final season at Lotus in 1987, winning by a handsome margin of 33 seconds ahead of the eventual champion that year, Nelson Piquet. The image of Senna’s white and red McLaren tearing around Monte Carlo is an iconic piece that is not only admired by F1 or motorsport but also sports in general. Senna won five in a row between 1989 and 1993, despite not having the fastest car. The most notable victory was back in 1992 when the Brazilian put on an astute defensive display to hold off Nigel Mansell’s Williams. Senna’s aggressive driving style and attention to detail made up for the gap in performance between the two cars, as he took the chequered flag.

The layout of the circuit

Preparations for the race weekend start way before the race day in Monte Carlo streets; with it being a street circuit, a lot of preparation takes place to divert traffic and assemble the grandstands. It’s one of the few tracks that is surrounded by a grand hotel, a huge swimming pool section and many other luxurious places which are not present in other grand Prix

The circuit is characterised by 3.337 KM or 2.074 Miles, having a total of 19 turns. Since the circuit is the shortest on the calendar, on race day, drivers are required to drive around the track a total of 78 times, the most on the calendar. One of the key characteristics is the Fairmont hairpin which is the slowest corner, taking its name from the Fairmont hotel.

What can be improved?

One of the biggest complaints about the circuit de Monaco is that the race itself is often much of a letdown. The tight and twisty nature of the track layout makes it almost impossible to overtake, and that has opened the door for many processions around the streets. While F1 is not calling on a complete overhaul of the Grand Prix circuit, it believes that there are improvements that can be made to the track that could help improve the spectacle. It is understood that suggestions have been made to move the track edge protections back at the chicane after the tunnel – to help widen the entry and at least allow a better chance for drivers to make a move down the inside as drivers brake hard into the new chicane. Also, track edge protections improved a lot but still need further improvements. Monaco has so far been adamant that it does not see the need to make a change on this front – but perhaps the risk of losing its contract could be motivation enough to change its tune.

Changes throughout history

Sector 1

Some of the sections and turns that have survived the test of time in the circuit de Monaco are: Mirabeau and the Fairmont hairpin (slowest corner), and Portier, with most of the lap tweaked to provide more safety mainly in the form of guard rail and improved road surface. The Fairmont hairpin is the only corner where drivers need to apply a full steering lock to make it out unscathed. Ste Devote became the first curve of the lap in 1963 and become one of the many trade marks around the circuit, as before that time, it was characterised by the Gasworks hairpin. It used to be a faster right-hander, but it was tightened in 1976, it also used to feature a barrier on the inside, but this was opened in 2003 to create some escape route area.

Sector 2

The construction of the Rainier III Nautical Stadium swimming pool altered the layout of the track, The Gasworks hairpin was scrapped and four new corners were added to go around the swimming pool. The introduction of this new layout helped to create space for a new pit lane and exit lane which was extended further in 2004, making room for the pit lane that we know today.

Sector 3

Due to the removal of the Gasworks hairpin, the curve underwent a drastic change. It was replaced in 1973 by La Rascasse, which is made up of a left-hand kink and a slow, double-apex right-hander as the final corner leading up to the pit straight, one of the few long straights. Almost all corners from the original layout eventually face drastic or minor changes.

Does the Monaco Grand Prix have a place in F1’s future? 

Times have changed and under new owners, Liberty Media, big-hitting additions like Zandvoort and Miami have ticked all the boxes that F1 chiefs want for fans and commercial interests. It has meant that, as F1 begins its contract discussions with the Automobile Club de Monaco over a new deal, it is approaching things with the mindset that if it doesn’t get what it wants, then it will walk away. There are some key factors that will be at the heart of these talks, and it will be up to Monaco and F1’s Chief Operating Officer to either come to a compromise if they want to continue or agree to disagree.

Time and money

The fee that is paid by Monaco to the F1 hosts is believed to be in the region of $12-15 Million, which might seem an absorbent amount of money but Jeddah and newly added tracks nearly pay double that amount. Also, F1 would like to have a more flexible race date as F1’ regionalisation of its calendar makes it want to run Miami and Montreal together in May, which could have knock-on implications. 

Track improvements

TV direction, Sponsorship and advertising are some of the few topics that need to be discussed and resolved to ensure a future for the Monaco Grand Prix. Track design is one of the biggest complaints about the Monaco GP; while F1 is not calling on a complete overhaul of the Monaco circuit, improvements can be done to enhance the spectacle. Suggestions have been made to relocate the barrier at the chicane after the tunnel, widening the entry to facilitate a lunge down the inside. F1 also would like the overall widening of other segments of the track to make it wider and improve the chances of overtaking. Long straights are near on impossible to introduce due to the restricted space.


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