This is an article I've been wanting to write for years... If you ever wrote something you might know how it feels to have a subject but you can't think of a way to connect the dots. So let's see what I've got in me today. First of let me start by saying that I love the Monaco Grand Prix. I absolutely love it!
I bet I've lost many of you by now. And that's exactly why I wanted to write this. Remember that keeping an open mind, when reading something, will only enrich you. 😉
I never really understood the hate Monaco gets each year. So each year I thought I should write an article about why it's wrong to hate it.
There are only a few GP locations that are on my (ultimate) bucket list. I won't surprise you by saying that Monaco is one of them, haha. The others are, in no particular order; Montreal (which I consider to be the ultimate F1 track), Monza (for the atmosphere) and Interlagos (even when the surroundings seem so dangerous).
Let's start with the main issue everyone has with the track at Monte Carlo:
It's a procession.
This is also the worst argument people can make! Why? Well, all of you who make that argument are 99% of those who also complain about having too much (artificial) DRS overtakes. Am I right? Of course I am. Don't get me wrong, I hate DRS passes too. I think an overtake should be done on merit. If I had to choose I'd rather have 3 moves in a race that can go down as 'one of the best ever', rather than a 100 of them by 'just pressing on a button'.
Furthermore I think a procession is possible at each venue. The Spanish GP usually ends up being a boring race. Yet no-one complaints half as much as about this one. Russia has given us exactly zero exciting races, and I rounded that number up! It's not unusual to have less than 5 overtakes at Melbourne. Same goes for the Hungaroring and Suzuka. Yet the latter is seen as an absolute classic. And I dare to say the same about Spa! The only thing that those two venues have more than Monaco, is action in the midfield. I want you to think back, and think hard, how long ago it is, at both Japan and Belgium, that the race was more exciting than the qualifying session? And let's not forget tracks like Valencia (which had just one entertaining race) or Abu Dhabi.
And let me tell you this, every single one of the overtakes done on the Monaco track is one we all enjoy! Because in Monaco there is no room to pass. That means if someone does go for an overtake it'll automatically be spectacular.
Which brings us to the next point:
This will also be my main selling point; Monte Carlo is the only place left on the current calendar where F1 is still F1. And by that I mean it's the only place where drivers don't get pampered. Although, I have to say that the Baku GP is creeping up as being just as unforgiving as Monaco.
It is this unforgivingness that I love so much. At each track we complain about the butchering Tilke does. Removing gravel traps and replacing them with those parking lots worthy slaps of extra asphalt. Remember how outraged you were when it happend to Monza's Parabolica? Or the Raidillion at Francorchamps? Or Pouhon or ...
The beauty about the Monaco track is that this is impossible to do. The layout has had some minor tweaks compared to the one used in 1929. Most of them being the addition of safety barriers. For this race they construct 33 kilometers of safety rails, 20,000 square meters of wire catch fencing, 3,600 tyres for tyre-barriers in a period of six weeks!
The biggest change has been the removal of the Gasworks hairpin, which used to be the first corner. But back then the start grid was at the harbor and not at the run to Ste Devote. That corner has had some changes too, making it tighter and opening up the barriers to have some run off. An other change made to Monaco is the length of the tunnel, but like most things changed in the princedom, this affected the surroundings of the track, and not the track itself.
One of the biggest changes has been the harbor section. After 1985 this fast left-right kink has been made in to a slow left right chicane followed by a faster one. The Tabac section used to be farther removed from the water and would go in to the Gasworks hairpin, where it would join the main straight. But since the removal of Gasworks, and the construction of the swimming pool in 1973, the track underwent a major change at this point. Creating room for some fast following corners around the swimming pool, and for a new pit complex.
It also created Rascasse and Noghes to make the track rejoin the main straight and, if needed, the pit. Each part of this track is narrow and unforgiving. Each lap is a testing the mental state of the drivers. It makes Monte Carlo a real drivers circuit. You don't need the most powerful car here. It's the driver that can make the difference...
One perfect example is Max Verstappen. His first two years here have been abysmal to say the least. This was mainly because, when he just started in F1, he hadn't outgrown his karting days. An indication of this was his action/reaction style of driving. Which is fine on a track with miles of run-off area, where your mistakes are easier to be sweeped under the rug. Or, like in karting, you have enough time to react to them and make a counter move. But in Monaco there is no room for mistakes or loss of concentration. And most certainly there is no room, nor time, to react to those mistakes.
Now don't get me wrong; I don't want drivers to be injured (or worse). But I do believe that the (supposedly) best drivers in the world should get punished for their mistakes. And by that I mean properly punished. Not losing one second because they can escape via a slap of tarmac alongside the track.
Monaco is the only place where I get the feeling that the audience had in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Motorsport was dangerous, it was exciting, it took no prisoners. Think of it this way; If an organizer would propose the Monaco track to the FIA in this day and age they would be declared insane. Why? Because it is a bonkers place to drive in cars with roughly 1000bhp.
So what makes so many of you hate it? I blame FOM. If they would use the magic solution every single one of you would love it here. All we need for that are on-board camera angles. Instead of zooming in on random celebrities or driver families (let's face it. No-one give a flying fuck about them...), show us the track from inside the car. Show us how fast they are going through streets barely wide enough for a car. Show us how close the walls are at 200kph. Show us why all the drivers believe that Monaco is the biggest challenge on the calendar. Show us why it's one third of the triple crown of motorsport.
Fernando Alonso once summed it up: “In Monaco, there is no room to do a mistake. More than driving skills, it’s about how mentally you are prepared and how strong you are to be able to keep your concentration for the 80 laps of the race, while keeping perfect pace and doing perfect moves.”
The next argument used is always this one:
It's always the pole sitter who wins.
Except that it absolutely isn't. I went back to the year 1990 and counted them all. And the result was a status quo: 14 times he did, 14 times he did not. A fifty fifty shot, that's not too bad. I've played with worse odds.
And then I thought the people who read this will accuse me of using the numbers that fit my narrative (it happend before 😉). So I went back to the absolute beginning (1950). There have been 67 Monaco GP's so far. 31 of them have been won by the guy on pole. Which means 36 of them did not. I will admit however than only ten times someone who started outside the top 3 has won the race.