The Monaco Grand Prix has been the crown jewel of Formula One’s World Championship Grand Prix calendar since its inception in 1950. But, unlike many other race tracks visited during the modern season and other legendary race tracks, the contest in Monte Carlo is as much about the race as it is the extravagant happenings in the local area.
The area of Monte Carlo is known for its high-roller lifestyle, with the grand Monte Carlo Casino being central to the area. But, when the Monaco Grand Prix comes around each year, celebrities and royalty from all over the world converge on the area to watch the world’s most premier racers battle on the Circuit de Monaco while turning the glistening harbours and historic streets into a playground for the rich and famous.
What is the Monaco Grand Prix?
An aerial shot of Monte Carlo at night, showing the same area which hosts much of the Monaco Grand Prix. Source: Pixabay
The Monaco Grand Prix is one of the most prestigious racing events in the world, forming one-third of the immaculate Triple Crown of Motorsport – along with the Indianapolis 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans – that only British racing star Graham Hill has ever achieved.
One of only five street circuits which make up the current Formula One calendar of 21 locations, Monaco takes place on the streets of Monte Carlo, featuring 78 laps over 3.337km laps. Although quite a short race regarding distance, only 260.286km in total, it presents many unique challenges to the drivers such as tight corners, changes in elevation, and the infamous tunnel that leads to one of the fastest parts of the track. It is, however, criticised by some modern drivers for lacking in overtaking opportunities. But, this paces even more impetus on practice and qualifying laps around the prestigious track.
As one of the original tracks on the Formula One World Championship calendar, the Monaco Grand Prix is steeped in racing history as well as being a historical location. Over the years, McLaren has become the dominant force with 15 wins at the Circuit de Monaco – five more than the next closest Ferrari – while the legendary Ayrton Senna’s count of six wins is at least four ahead of any active driver.
But, with a gathering of the rich and famous in such an iconic part of the world, the Monaco Grand Prix is much more than a meeting of the best drivers in Formula One.
A historic providence fueling the prestigious race
A shot of the prestigious and historic Monte Carlo Casino that’s a the heart of the wealthy persona of the area. Source: Pixabay
Monaco, and more specifically Monte Carlo, has been an icon of class, sophistication, and the upper-class. The ward and its main attractions have appeared throughout pop culture for decades, which include the epitome of sophisticated gentlemen, James Bond, visiting in Never Say Never Again in 1983 and then again in 1995 in GoldenEye. Starring a genius billionaire protagonist, it was only natural for the 2010 movie Iron Man 2 to also come to the area to watch the Monaco World Prix 1.
But, the central figure of Monte Carlo throughout popular culture and in the eyes of the tourists is the Monte Carlo Casino. In the late 18th Century, the word ‘casino’ was coined which led to a huge number of buildings opening across mainland Europe that hosted gambling games. The already glamorous Monte Carlo built its casino in 1863 as a playground for elite-level gamblers in a building resembling a palace. Now, with Monte Carlo still holding onto its prestigious aura, the Monte Carlo Casino is the focal point of the area, emphasising the sense of class and fortune that comes from being in the area.
Many casinos bring with them a sense of class and the high-roller lifestyle, but the fact that the Casino de Monte-Carlo is, for all intensive purposes, a history-laden palace, makes it one of the most prestigious buildings in the world, which attracts only the richest and most famous clientele. The casino helps fuel Monte Carlo’s infamous persona, while it has continued to build around its historic streets to cater to the wealthy visitors on race days, such as with the harbour, yachts and classy hotels overlooking the track.
How does the Grand Prix de Monaco compare to other races?
One of the many sharp corners of the Monaco Grand Prix which takes place on the streets of Monte Carlo. Source: Pixabay
In terms of the event itself, the surrounding area, and the personnel that’s attracted to the long weekend, no race compares to the Grand Prix de Monaco. Monte Carlo and the race itself are so incredibly historic and prestigious that it’s one of, if not the, biggest event on the racing calendar.
However, when compared to the other races on the current calendar, Circuit de Monaco clocks in as having the shortest lap length at 3.337km. The in Monte Carlo race is dwarfed regarding lap length by the Belgium Grand Prix’s Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps that features laps of 7.004km.
In Formula One, much of the Monaco Grand Prix’s prestige comes from its history. Having joined the World Championship schedule in its inaugural season, 1950, Circuit de Monaco has featured on the schedule a whopping 65 times. This dwarves other historical venues such as the British Grand Prix’s Silverstone Circuit, which is the next closest to the Monaco Grand Prix with 52 Grand Prix held. However, the four-year break that Monaco took after the initial season means that the race sits second in total Grand Prix held, sitting behind the Italian Grand Prix’s count of 68.
Compared to the other most historic circuits on the Formula One calendar – Silverstone and the Italian Grand Prix’s Autodromo Nazionale Monza – it’s more important to land pole in the Grand Prix de Monaco. At the Circuit de Monaco, there’s a 44.62 race win percentage from pole, whereas Silverstone sees its win percentage from pole at 36.54 per cent to the Italian GP’s 38.24 per cent. But, it certainly generates more excitement than the aesthetically stunning Singapore Grand Prix Marina Bay Street Circuit, which sees pole win 72.73 per cent of the time. The Monaco Grand Prix also hosts the shortest overall race distance compared to these two other iconic locations, totaling 260.286km to Silverstone’s 306.332km and Monza’s 307.029km.
With an iconic location, a history of class, and the high-roller lifestyle embedded in Monte Carlo, the Monaco Grand Prix weighs as an incredibly unique occasion and the most prestigious on the race calendar.