BY HANUSHKA TONI
When people think of motor racing, the race most likely to come to mind is the Monaco Grand Prix. Motor racing has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry, attracting a global audience seduced by the glamor and incredible thrills of the sport. Championships are held around the world in locations as exotic as Bahrain and Baku, but if there is one track that has come to define the sport, it’s the iconic Monaco street circuit. Along with the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, this race forms the elusive Triple Crown of Motorsport.
The race in Monaco is not only legendary, but also one of the most difficult. Every year, over four days in late May, the small independent Principality on the French Riviera plays host to the spectacle of speed and technology known officially as the Formula 1 Grand Prix de Monaco.
In 2018 the race will be held from 24-27 May. However, this is not the only event that celebrates cars and sport in Monaco. Two weeks prior to the main event, the country hosts the biennial Historic Grand Prix of Monaco, a nostalgic celebration of the sport and its evolution.
Motor Racing In Monaco – Where Did It All Begin?
The answer to how motorsports came to dominate the sporting landscape of this small country, known for its glamor and exclusive Monaco real estate, lies in the early twentieth century. The race predates the establishment of the championship in its current incarnation. It was born in 1929 when Antony Noghès, then president of the Automobile Club de Monaco (ACM), proposed to create a Grand Prix using the narrow asphalt streets and winding topography of the Principality as a race track in an attempt to attain full national status for the ACM. As such, the sport in Monaco was born.
The first race took place on 14 April 1929 and was won by Frenchman William Grover-Williams. His Type 35B Bugatti nimbly negotiated the tight restricted track to win his first place and a prize of 100,000 French Francs.
Monaco’s inaugural Formula One Championship race was in 1955. The Principality has played host to the event every year since, a rarity in a championship known to shake up its calendar almost every year. Frenchman Maurice Trintignant won this first edition and marked one of only two times a driver has crashed into Monaco’s iconic harbor. The following year saw the first of Monaco’s legendary winners: Sir Stirling Moss, who won the race three times.
The 1960s gave us Britain’s Graham Hill, known as “Mr Monaco,” who won the race five times in the decade, a feat only Ayrton Senna has surpassed. Between 1984 and 1993, the Brazilian driver and Frenchman Alain Prost traded victories and Senna’s record of six victories at Monaco still stands today as the greatest. In the years that have followed, Germany’s Michael Schumacher has come close, with five victories. Most recently, Britain’s Lewis Hamilton most famously won the race in the rain in 2008 and again in 2016. Sebastian Vettel is the reigning Monaco champion heading into this year’s race.
The Monaco Grand Prix – What Makes This Race Unique?
The Monaco Grand Prix has become more than a race. Aside from the technical challenges that the narrow track presents, spectators are gripped by the beauty and glamor of the French Riviera. Held at the same time as the Cannes Film Festival, celebrities and millionaires alike flock to the principality to enjoy the heady glamor of fast cars and superyachts.
The race for drivers to win is also the race that fans want to experience live. The exhilaration of watching it can’t be understated. Although the shortest race on the F1 calendar, the track is exceptionally challenging – space is restricted, teams and drivers pushed to the limit. It’s easy to catch a corner and there’s nowhere to spin. It’s little wonder that winning the Monaco Grand Prix has long been considered the most prestigious accolade in motor racing.
Intriguingly, today, the track remains virtually unchanged to that of the first race in 1929. With a current length of just over 162miles (260 kilometers), it is the only race shorter than Formula 1’s governing body, FIA’s, set minimum length of 190 miles (305 kilometers). The most iconic part of the track is of course the famous Fairmont hairpin. It’s the slowest turn of the entire F1 championship, usually taken on a full steering lock.
The Historic Grand Prix
May 11-13 2018 will mark the eleventh Historic Grand Prix of Monaco, held every two years. The race was held in 1997 and takes place on the same track as the Formula One event, but with one notable difference: all the cars competing are vintage and manufactured in the golden age of car racing.
The race will feature stalwart racing classics such as pre-war Bugattis as well as the slim historic cars of Formula One. The cars have been selected for their historical value and will evoke the exhilarating history of the race and sport in Monaco.
Photos: Courtesy of Daimler