This weekend is the famed Monaco Grand Prix, one of the highlights on the calendar for teams, drivers, fans and celebrities alike. But is it all as wonderful as the glitz and glamour make it appear?
Monaco has a lot of history. It was the second race of the inaugural World Championship in 1950, and has been a fixture on the calendar ever since. As a playground for the rich and famous, the event hosts some A list celebrities, and the harbour is filled with the yachts of rich businessmen. There is no other race with the atmosphere of Monaco, there is no other track where you can get as close to the cars.
The circuit is full of tight corners and straights with kinks in. As a street circuit, it wasnít built to certain specifications, but extracted from the space available in the principality. Thereís a raw feel about it, that the drivers seem to like. Itís a track that highlights their skill and abilities, rather than focusing on the few tenths faster one car is over another. Any mistakes are severely punished in Monte Carlo, and weíve seen that in the past.
Another plus is the variations that the track has over others. Itís the only one with a tunnel, for instance, which adds to the intrigue. Monaco also has one of the tightest hairpins and slows the cars right down.
Whilst the track itself is interesting, it doesnít lend itself well to fascinating racing. Often, whoever qualifies on pole position will go on to win the race. The circuit is so tight, and there are almost no run off areas, leaving drivers unwilling or unable to risk too many overtaking manoeuvres. Overtaking is not the be all and end all of a race, and Monaco does come up with its fair share of incidents, but a safety car around the short lap is just another procession.
Safety is of paramount concern in Monaco. The crowd are very close, and as I just mentioned, there are very few run off areas if a car makes a mistake. The track runs very close to the buildings lining the route, and itís a nerve-wracking watch as the cars speed through the streets. The marshals and safety improvements are excellent, however.
It doesnít look like Monaco will be going anywhere off the calendar soon, as it remains one of the most popular destinations for Formula 1. Even if the racing isnít top notch, itís the entire spectacle that captures imaginations the world over.