Monaco: One for the Road
TA News Bureau:
There are street races and there is the Monaco GP. Unlike all other Formula 1 street races, the one in Monte Carlo is an experience almost romantic. It’s the ambience, the glamour – and certainly, the lurking danger
There are quite a few street races in the Formula 1 GP calendar, but none to beat Monaco. It remains the coolest – and hottest – road race in the championship. The Monaco GP, where Sebastian Vettel gave Ferrari a scorching win over the last weekend of May – is unlike any other race of the season and the most longed for by drivers.
The winding roads get tread-marked by the cars while the whole Monte Carlo joins the fun and frolic. It’s just not the cars and the drivers – it’s party time where glamour and the scent of money – lot of it – mix itself into a heady cocktail of excitement to make it a super event.
The Monaco Grand Prix is one of the oldest, run on the tight and twisting streets of Monte Carlo, the event was first held back in 1929. The roads are normal city roads meant for ordinary traffic, but come May, the cars and the buses move out and the F1 beasts take over. It takes six weeks to set up the circuit and three weeks to remove it.
The high adrenaline factor is the lurking danger along the narrow roads where drivers have to be extraordinarily alert. The gear gets shifted an incredible 54 times per lap – more than 4,200 changes over the course of the race. Full throttle? The longest full throttle lasts eight seconds flat!
It’s not just the sharp bends. The walls are so close that one whisker of lapse can end up in a crash. Nelson Piquet, one of the F1 legends, once said racing at Monaco—by far the most famous street circuit of them all—was “like trying to cycle around your living room.” Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo says: “The nearer you are, the faster you’ll go. Give the wall a kiss and you feel pretty good: Kiss it too hard and that’s it!”
Pascal Wehrlein learnt it the hard way this year when he crashed out of the Monaco GP after a collision with Jenson Button. Button – stepping in for Fernando Alonso – tried to overtake the Sauber but wheels clashed and flipped Wehrlein into a wall. Wehrlein walked away from the crash seemingly unhurt, while Button was forced to retire.
The most crucial part is qualifying because it is near impossible to overtake. The world’s most famous street circuit offers no margin for error and the crash barriers are unforgiving. Overall speeds are relatively low, with the maximum of about 290 km/h through the tunnel section, and the track is tight and twisty. Some call Monaco not a race, but a procession!
The Monaco circuit is the shortest Grand Prix track on the calendar at 3.340 kilometres. The race distance of 260.520 km is the shortest of the season and nowhere else does a race cover more laps (78).
Michael Schumacher and Graham Hill have both won five teams in Monte Carlo, with Alain Prost grabbing four wins while Stirling Moss and Jackie Stewart have three triumphs to their tally; but the record of most wins in the Principality resides with the legend Ayrton Senna who won six times.
McLaren have scored the most victories at the Monaco race with 15 wins. The second most successful team at the track is Ferrari with nine, while Lotus has seven, including their maiden victory in 1960.
And then there is the glam quotient. As the cars roar on the roads, the rich and the famous, including Hollywood celebrities and tycoons crowd the yachts and balconies for a glimpse. The fans can go closest to the circuit in Monte Carlo than anywhere else.
Melbourne and Singapore are also street races, but the Monaco ambience is unique. The thrill spills into the after-race hours. When the sun sets and the street lights come on, it’s party time.
The Monaco race is an experience almost romantic. It joins the Indy 500 and the 24-hour Le Mans in that category.