This topic has been brewing in the buildup to the weekend of the 2022 Monaco Grand Prix, especially as Formula 1 expands stateside with the Miami Grand Prix done and dusted this season, while we await to see what Las Vegas has to offer in its inaugural F1 race in 2023.
Monaco has been a fixed staple on the F1 calendar, and it has long been a given that the circuit layout does not allow for overtaking, with the emphasis being on qualifying, but with dazzling circuits like Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Miami, and supposedly the upcoming Las Vegas track, pressure is being put on Monaco’s future.
But is that right? Has Monaco become irrelevant? Our latest TeamTalk discusses…
I raced in Monaco in Formula 3000 back in 1999. What a memory it is! Monaco takes no prisoners, you have to be at the top of your game to deliver, you can’t afford a single mistake, you can’t pretend you are good enough to drive the car, you have to be good at it to perform.
Monaco is this one track in the season where drivers having a bad car have a chance to perform and show what they are made of.
Of course, races tend to be processions with not much overtaking while qualifying sessions are usually the pinnacle of the weekend. But it is south of France and weather can be the troublemaker, or the spicy bit in the mix for an exciting Sunday afternoon.
Monaco is mostly about qualifying and racing against the clock, but this is also motorsport. Rally drivers are not racing wheels to wheels but they are still amazing race drivers, and they offer a great show.
Qualifying in Monaco is something you want to experience once in your life as a racing driver. You want to get in that zone where adrenaline is pouring and you are dancing with the car at 300 km/h in between Armco barriers, around the bumps, the kerbs, and the street pavements of the principality.
Drifting the car around the right left flat-out chicane of the swimming pool and tapping the brakes for the chicane while the rear of the car is sliding and smoothly shaving the Armco before you turn in, this is a moment where you get in another dimension, you become one with the car and this is a feeling you can’t have anywhere else except maybe in Macao.
It takes talent to qualify well in Monaco, but it also takes thinking, timing and strategy. Gasly was a clear example on Saturday, having been in the top six in all three free practice sessions, but failing to get in Q2 for putting one step wrong, not for lack of speed. This is also part of the Monaco excitement.
As a race driver, Monaco is 100% relevant to me and I believe it is for most of the drivers. Winning Monaco is always something special, more than any other Grand Prix on the calendar.
Looking at the bigger picture, Monaco is 1000% relevant to the F1 crowd, to the F1 teams and their sponsors, to F1 TV viewers and to the history of the sport.
The Monaco Grand Prix was the first race ever to be sponsored by a watch maker back in 1969 when Tag Heuer launched its “Monaco” chronograph. It is the place where sponsors want to be, the symbol of luxury, expensive cars, and exclusivity.
Yet once a year, we can all enjoy it. It is live on TV with the best drivers in the world fighting on track and it opens its exclusive doors to spectators filling grandstands and balconies around the track.
Race fans love it! Monaco is one of the three biggest Motorsport events with Le Mans and the Indy 500, it is the most watched F1 race on the calendar for years in terms of TV viewers and these are real signs that it is relevant to all, and not only the drivers and the F1 circus.
Teams would argue that they have difficult working conditions in Monaco, struggling for space and fighting with traffic to reach the Pits, but they all want to win Monaco.
Fred Vasseur rightly said that Monaco must raise its game to remain on the calendar. Better pit garages, additional temporary bridges and other safety matters must be looked into, but they are not genuine reasons to dismiss the venue.
F1 promoters need to balance the game between the tracks and related fees they pay to be on the calendar. It is no secret that Monaco pays the smallest fee. F1 being F1, negotiations are tough and include opened media blackmailing, but this is all part of the game and I have no doubt an extension of Monaco’s contract will come up soon.
If you’re American, Monaco probably doesn’t resonate the way the Indy 500 does. But it is at the heart of what Formula 1 is all about, especially if you’re from anywhere other than America. Therein lies the problem.
Until Liberty Media got involved, the idea of dropping Monaco off the F1 calendar never cropped up in lucid conversation. Sure, its relevance in racing terms has been suspect for many years but Formula 1 without Monaco is like Le Man without the 24 hours. It’s not a good look.
Bernie Ecclestone stated that nobody has the “rocks” to kick it out. I would suggest that you don’t need “rocks” you just need a committee full of “stupids”. Before anyone pulls a gun out and shoots from the hip here, they should consider one thing.
If a man like Ecclestone recognised the equity in the Monaco Grand Prix and allowed them free rein in advertising, TV and whatever else they have, then there was a bloody good business case.
There was a reason why there were so many signs around the course stating; Monaco Grand Prix – since 1929. It was to remind Liberty Media they have something it doesn’t: heritage!
For those working in F1 Monaco is quirky at best, and ridiculously inconvenient at worst. In many ways F1 has undoubtedly outgrown the circuit and the facilities, and at an organizational level there are many compromises made to what is the standard FOM ‘norm’.
Nevertheless, these are and should always be the exception because the Monaco Grand Prix is not just another event on the annual F1 fixture, it is entwined in the history of not just F1, but that of automotive sport as a whole.
Globally there are three motorsport races that the public identify with, regardless of whether or not they have an interest in it; the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Indianapolis 500, and the Monaco Grand Prix.
Further to this, it would even be quite valid to conject that Monaco is not just the jewel in the crown of F1, but that of motorsport as whole.
For something to be relevant it is to be associated with, or identifiable. For many, to think of automotive sport is to think of Fangio, Moss, Hill, Stewart, Schumacher and Senna, and the moment the legacies of these greats is considered, Monaco is an automatic association.
Even in the modern era, and contrary to the accompanying difficulties the circuit has with overtaking, it sorts out who the greats are. Usually, average drivers don’t win Monaco.
Personally, because of the intrinsic connection, Monaco has with F1’s heritage, I am a firm believer that the Automobile Club de Monaco shouldn’t even be asked to pay a hosting fee.
It is that important? Alas, the commercial interests of F1 are these days owned by Liberty Media whose only real intention isn’t to guard the legacy of F1, but rather to shine brightly as a beacon of American capitalism and make the shareholders smile.
In the words of the pop singer Madonna, ‘We are living in a material world, and F1 is now a material girl’!
The Monaco Grand Prix is not an experiment with unknown results. We all know what it’s all about, we all recognize that it’s near impossible to pass.
Firstly, it was refreshing to see the drivers behind Sergio Perez unable to DRS their way out of trouble during this year’s addition of the race. Perhaps a kind of retroactive payment for races that have been lost in the past.
The 2017 Spanish Grand Prix comes to mind. Some of F1’s greatest moments are rooted in defensive, non-passing type racing yet for whatever reason whenever it comes to the today’s version of racing, passing seems to be the absolute priority even if it’s accomplished without soul.
Furthermore, it feels like we were sold a much different concept of what the 2022 car formula would produce against the highly criticized 2021 and previous era of cars. Yet I find myself still holding my breath, as so far the characteristics of the racing have been a near replica of previous years, with only the faces at the front being the only stand out difference.
The ability to pass is still 100% reliant on DRS and F1 soldiers on every weekend seemingly trying to reproduce the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix with overly sensitive tyres and enough fuel onboard to propel a cargo ship across the Atlantic.
Thus I’m not sold that all of Monaco’s problems are truly a Monaco problem from a racing aspect. Assuming the ultimate head-butting is in fact happening at the high level management between Liberty and the ACM, history has shown that trying to replace an event like Monaco is simply not feasible.
The US500 and the Brickyard 400 are two painful examples where Cart and Nascar found out the hard way that it is not possible to manufacture a crown jewel event simply by wishing it to be, and it won’t be any different on F1’s journey if they so choose this path.
An immediate example is, despite the hysteria surrounding F1’s newest event in Miami, the very next weekend, MotoGP’s attendance in Le Mans for the French GP crushed Miami’s attendance numbers without any of the hype, it wasn’t even a comparison.
The idea of F1 cutting Monaco out from its future is the equivalent of playing chess without an opponent, which is scary considering it’s unclear what Liberty is in pursuit of other than the immediately obvious. The opponent is whom or what Liberty are trying to embrace as F1’s immediate future and more specifically the hindrances which exist that are unseen to the naked eye in this moment of time.
Malaysia, Valencia, Nurburgring, Indianapolis, Magny-Cours, Turkey, Korea, India, Vietnam; Monaco is a classic, Monaco is authentic, and Monaco stands for the identity that is Formula 1.
Let’s get straight down to business. The argument that lack of overtaking would make Monaco irrelevant, its future under question, is utter nonsense.
I agree that modern F1 cars are now too big which makes racing them around Monaco and overtaking an impossible feat, but for me, it’s F1 that has gone wrong with its cars, and not Monaco, evident from many drivers voicing their dismay with current F1 cars.
Have we all forgotten the weight issue for the 2022 cars early on this season? The cars are now over 800kg for crying out loud!
However, new F1 cars’ sizes and weights – despite being too big to race in Monaco – have a positive side to them, and that is they have become too difficult to drive around the tight streets of the principality making them a challenge for their drivers to control, the best 20 drivers in the world supposedly.
The 2022 Monaco Grand Prix was proof of the difficulties the drivers were facing, many of them missing their braking points in practice, so for me that adds to the excitement.
The other aspect is that Monaco has always been about that perfect qualifying lap, using the most of the track, scraping the barriers without crashing, and over the years that hasn’t changed, and is still applicable even during last weekend’s grand prix.
Most races are processions in Monaco, true… But that has always been the case for over two decades if not more. It was never an overtaking track but that applies to many other tracks on the F1 calendar. So why is Monaco being questioned? And why now?
Is it because Liberty Media now owns F1 and wants to squeeze more money out of traditional tracks, using new artificial tracks as leverage?
Has racing in Miami been more exciting? Or should we be jumping up and down in joy for the fake marinas and beach bars?
The side show was nice in Miami but the racing was rubbish. They even didn’t get the track surface right over there, and as for the Las Vegas Grand Prix, we will wait and see.
As soon as Las Vegas was confirmed, Zak Brown started his anti-Monaco crusade, and Toto Wolff is calling for a re-look at the track just because Lewis Hamilton couldn’t pass Fernando Alonso last Sunday.
Would Toto have mentioned the track had it been Lewis blocking Alonso? Hasn’t Monaco helped Lewis win races before on tyres allegedly worn down to the canvas? Lewis is brilliant, but with tyres that bad, he should thank Monaco for his 2019 win.
Monaco is the ultimate test for man and machine, and trash-talking it like what’s happening right now is motorsport blasphemy, especially by those who want to convince us fake marinas are the future of F1.
Increasingly less relevant in the era of these ultra-long F1 cars. It was farcical that four equally matched cars had to follow one another nose to tail within a couple of seconds apart, nose to tail for what would have been a mega-30-minute sprint at any other venue.
The staunch traditionalist in me has been overcome by the reality check that the place is no longer suitable to be called an F1 race track anymore. It was for over half a century but the F1 car as we know it has outgrown the streets of Monte-Carlo, even if they paid what the Saudis and the like pay to host. This is not about money.
At the same time, Monaco is the crown jewel and perhaps in this age of showbiz razzmatazz, it could be the season-opening ceremony of sorts, after testing, where the cars and their crews and drivers parade the new cars from Tabac through the Piscine complex to the grid live.
Thereafter a one-hour practice session is followed by a one-hour qualifying session – a Saturday in other words – get a crypto start-up to throw in a $5-million-dollar first prize for the pole winner and award points for the top five as a curtain-raiser to Round 1 a week or two after Monaco’s and F1’s seasonal ‘opening ceremony’. Round Zero.
Or something to that effect to keep the Principality relevant. Until F1 cars shrink width and length, Monaco is actually a joke if you scrape away the gloss and nostalgic bits even dating to the eighties when Nelson Piquet senior quipped: “it’s like riding a racing bicycle in your living room.” Enough said.
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