Monaco Grand Prix
“An exceptional location of glamour and prestige”
When I was younger, F1 was strange and foreign to me. I never got the appeal. Could the Monaco Grand Prix change my opinion? And was it worth the 650 dollars I spent for a ticket?
Monaco Grand Prix – Lucky You
As you step out of the train station, your ears are filled with the frantic sound of engines and rubber on pavement. It reverberates off the alps that surround the second smallest country in the world. It’s race week and you are lucky enough to have scored tickets to the Monaco Grand Prix, considered by most fans to be amongst the top three racing events in the world, along with the 24 Hours of La Mans and the Indianapolis 500.
Up until Prince Rainier took over the reigns of the principality in 1949, 95% of Monaco’s GDP was derived from gambling. It’s no wonder then that glamor and money have nestled their way into the very lifeblood of the city. It’s where Grace Kelly fulfilled many 5 year old girl’s fantasy to become a princess and where 32,000 people carve out a very substantial living. The annual per capital income of the 2 km² city plopped in the heart of the French Riviera is 132,000 USD, which ranks first in the world. During the grand prix much of that wealth is on display; the uber rich watch the race from their mega-yachts that speckle the Mediterranean seaside harbor overlooking the circuit. In a telling tale of modern privilege, wealth and disparity, the city’s attraction is so high, that it is the only location on the formula 1 tour that is exempt from paying the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) a fee between 28 and 32 million dollars for the right to hold a race. Unsurprisingly, FIA has remarked that Monaco is “an exceptional location of glamor and prestige”.
The circuit itself is etched into the very grid of the city, making the two inseparable come the end of May. The serpentine track is not the fastest in the world, but that’s not the draw either. The Monaco Grand Prix is as difficult as they come in Formula 1 and great technical skill is required to win the race. Nelson Piquet, who has graced the top of the winner’s podium three times, said that driving on the Monaco circuit was “like trying to cycle round your living room”, but also added that “a win here was worth two anywhere else”. Up until 1969 when they put the first Armco barriers up, it was possible for drivers to hit the buildings, lamp posts, trees, etc. that lined the track. On two occasions, drivers even made their way a bit farther off the track and found themselves in the azure waters of the Mediterranean.
Tradition and Legacy
The very first Monaco Grand Prix was held in 1929. In that swirling and uncertain time period, an Englishman known on his application simply as W Williams came away victorious. In something out of a Bond film, William Grover Williams was both a race car driver and a secret agent. During World War II he even setup up information networks in occupied France. Eventually his luck ran out and he was captured and executed by the Nazi party. Since that time, the circuit has changed little, the addition of Armco barriers withstanding. In recent years, the race has seen its share of multiple winners – Prost, Schumacher, Weber – but it is the Brazilian Ayrton Senna that has come away with the most victories and is perhaps the races most celebrated driver. A Pilot’s Pilot, Senna’s skill-set fit perfectly with the circuit’s need for technical driving at it’s blazing limit. Sadly, his life was cut short in 1994 in a fatal accident. To the right, is a Top Gear tribute to Ayrton Senna.
A great driver needs a great car; one without the other is a waste of talent. Most people know that F1 cars go fast, with speeds up to 220 miles per hour, but for those that are not F1 fans, it may come as a surprise that cars are now equipped with turbo V6 engines. Yes, only 6 cylinders propel these cars from 0 to 60 in around 2 seconds. Gone are the days of the V12s, 10s and even 8s. FIA has placed increased importance on sustainability and the car manufacturers have responded by reducing the number of cylinders while improving efficiency. All well and good, however a smattering of the die hard F1 fans clamor for the sounds of yore; that deep guttural sound of the engine roaring that comes from the higher cylinder engines. Even so, the V6s still produce enough umph for the noise to continue to draw crowds for the sport. Furthermore, Mercedes is currently working on a “Megaphone” extension to it’s exhaust to amplify the sound of the engine. The megaphone is currently being tested and if all goes well, it very well could be a “louder” Monaco Grand Prix in 2014.
The Favorites for 2014
Exciting story lines have already developed in 2014. Due to a superior engine design developed for the 2014 campaign that splits the turbo charger’s turbine and compressor rather than packaging them together, the Mercedes drivers have left other pilots in their proverbial dust. The two Mercedes drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, are currently ranked one and two respectively after five races. Hamilton has won four and Rosberg, who has been consistently nipping at his heels, has won one. Last weekend at the Spanish Grand Prix, Rosberg finished only six tenths of a second behind Hamilton, while Ricciardo, the closest racer to Rosberg, finished a whopping 49 seconds behind him. Certainly the eyes of many will be on Rosberg to see if he can finally best Hamilton, especially after recent near misses in Bahrain and Spain.
Of course, the Monaco Grand Prix is a special race, one that favors the ability of the drivers even more than the car itself. In 1988, Aryton Senna was able to qualify a full one and a half seconds ahead of Alain Proust, who was driving the exact same car. That not only sets the stage for a showdown between Rosberg and Hamilton, but it might just allow other drivers to sneak their foot in the door as well. That goes especially for the team of Redbull with the likes of Sebastian Vettel behind the wheel. Vettell also has the added benefit of driving a Renault, which it is speculated produces more downforce than the Mercedes, and on the twisty Monaco circuit with few long straight aways, downforce is king. This race could be up for grabs after all.
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About the Author: Andrew Delmenhorst
Originally a cheesehead from Wisconsin, Andrew has lived and worked in Europe for over 6 years. He came to Germany under the guise of obtaining a European MBA from the Mannheim Business School (he really wanted to satisfy his wanderlust). After the program, he worked five years for a large Multinational company, putting in the hours during the week so that he could travel on the weekend. He speaks English and German (Some people say he speaks more of a Denglish), has traveled to 28 countries and has lived in six of them. One of his travel goals is to attend every World Cup until he dies. He currently writes full-time for Passport Chronicles and calls Brussels, Belgium his home when he is not on the road.