The 1971 Grand Prix before the track was changed to go round the swimming pool, leaving a small space for the Pits

The 1971 Grand Prix before the track was changed, photo by Mick Dodsworth, all rights reserved

In these days of health and safety Monaco shouldn’t be on the calendar, but at the same time it must be and it seems the most secure race there is, having said this a serious accident might yet put an end to the Monaco Grand Prix that has been run since 1929.

 

In 2011 there was a major crash for Perez caused by a bump coming out of the tunnel luckily he only suffered minor injuries and in the race Petrov had a slight injury caused by a tangle that was in turn caused by the track simply being too narrow at the swimming pool section. At the same time Monaco’s saving grace is perhaps that it has the slowest average speed of any circuit and is for that reason actually shorter than any other grand prix to ensure it doesn’t go over the two hour limit every time, though it still can do sometimes if a few safety cars come out and at least one or two are quite inevitable.

 

This slow, tight street circuit is very tricky but despite that it is possible to get into a rhythm here and driver’s love it as the ultimate challenge, which when you get it right feels fantastic. When you get things a little bit wrong here then it is generally game over and so it is often anyone’s race. It is meant to be a track that shows off which drivers have the most skill not the fastest car or the best horsepower as these count for little.

 

1984 was a perfect example of talent shining through with Ayrton Senna in a Toleman and Stefan Bellof in a Tyrell showing their skills in appalling wet conditions that saw Lauda spin out among others and Prost begging for the race to be stopped as Senna caught him. The race was stopped but this would cost Prost the title as half points were awarded and a second place on full points would have given Prost the title at the end of the year. Ayrton Senna finished second though and Stefan Bellof finished third, Tyrell were later disqualified but this took nothing away from his performance.

 

1984 is often cited as the classic Monaco race, but more Monaco Grand Prix are classics than not it seems. 1996 stands out as only 4 cars finished in the wet, the winner was Olivier Panis his only grand prix victory and the last time a Frenchman won a Grand Prix. Looking further back Stirling Moss’ win in 1961 racing against new 1961 Ferraris and Porches in an older Lotus stands out. Both Ferraris of Ginther and Phil Hill had caught and it was perhaps only his skill in lapping traffic that kept Moss ahead until the end.

 

 

The Monaco track though tight all the way round is not impossible to overtake on, it is more that there is such little margin for error that you can’t take half chances around Monte Carlo. The start going into Ste Devote is one of the few places with any space and where overtakes can be tried. Out of Mirabeau is one of the best chances though often this leads to cars going into the Loews Hairpin line astern and this more often than not ends in someone losing a part of their car.

 

 

Out of the tunnel into the Nouvelle Chicane is another good overtaking opportunity, there is room to get it wrong but several times we have seen cars have to give places back if they left the track to pass, and sometimes losing out to others in the process.

 

 

The Hill in Monaco

The Hill in Monaco, precarious but good value, photo by Mick Dodsworth, all rights reserved

Many spectators watch from the grand stand by the swimming pool with the start finish straight behind, in some positions you can see the track on both sides. Other spectators choose a spot on the hill over looking much of the track from the tunnel round to Ste Devote, this is a cheap option though slightly limited in the detail you can pick up and many feel going to a Grand Prix should be about getting close to the action.