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Why is the Monaco Grand Prix Considered the Most Prestigious F1 Event?

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The Monaco Grand Prix may be associated with glitz and glamour, but much criticism has been levelled at it over recent years.

No space for overtaking, no real action, nothing much for spectators to cheer.

Arguably the most important day of the race weekend is Saturday qualifying, and Sunday is often a procession from lights to flag. But is it as simple as that?

There are many more facets to racing in Monte Carlo, though the action may be more for the purists than the casual observer. And there have been enough classic Grands Prix over the years to justify Monaco’s place on the F1 calendar.

A Boring Race…?

Monaco used to be untouchable on the F1 calendar, and it’s still a race that drivers enjoy and strive to win. But for many racing fans it can get a little dull – even in bygone eras it was tough to overtake, but now that Formula One cars are bigger and wider than ever, seeing drivers duke it out wheel to wheel is even rarer. Even with a faster car, a more skilled driver and driving aids such as the drag reduction system (DRS) we seldom see overtakes.

Arguably the most critical part of the race meet is qualifying – grid position is crucial for a successful race, so whoever puts in the best lap on Saturday is almost guaranteed success on Sunday.

Despite the allure of a sun-soaked weekend in the principality, many fans hope for a bit of rain come the race – it has certainly jazzed things up in the past!

…Or an Exciting One?

All that said, Monaco can be immensely exciting. Sure, overtaking doesn’t generally happen, but the circuit is a unique challenge during the F1 season, and one that drivers relish. The tight corners and lack of run-off areas mean that one mistake = a driver finishing the race in the wall.

Just look at the race in 1988 – Ayrton Senna was leading comfortably until he hit the barriers coming out of the tunnel, handing victory to bitter rival Alain Prost.

Drivers have no time to relax – there are no long straights and an estimated 48 gear changes per lap – one every 2-3 seconds. There have been classics without any overtaking – Nigel Mansell stuck behind Senna in a much faster car, on his tail for the closing laps.

Likewise in 2019, Lewis Hamilton was on worn-out tyres holding off the flying Red Bull of Max Verstappen during an epic 50 lap duel. Monaco is full of psychological pressure.

Billionaires’ Playground – Luxury, Gambling, and a Rich Nightlife

Just the name Monte Carlo conjures up romance, glamour, gambling, and fast cars. And the Monaco Grand Prix has long been considered the jewel in motorsport’s crown, a challenging street circuit negotiating the tricky bends of the city-state on the shores of the Côte d’Azur.

Racers zoom past the blue harbour full of luxury yachts and crawl around the iconic hairpin in the hope of taking victory at this notoriously difficult track.

The timeless glamour of the event cannot be underestimated, and it draws enormous crowds to the principality who party, drink champagne, and gamble at the iconic Monte Carlo Casino- although Monégasque residents aren’t allowed to play, just visitors. Of course, even for local gambling fans, the same games can be found in the best online casino.

Also, if not able to go to Monaco, you can always put the racing on the TV to evoke a similar Grand Prix atmosphere!

Classic Monaco races

We mentioned 1988, 1992, and 2019, but there have been many classic races in Monaco over the years. Back in 1961, Sterling Moss held off an intimidating attack from two far superior Ferraris as he drove his outdated Lotus above and beyond its performance limits, leading from lap 14 until the chequered flag waved at lap 100.

A few years later, the great Graham Hill took his third Monaco victory, again dispatching the Ferraris of  Surtees and Bandini and earning himself the nickname “Mr Monaco”.

2016 saw Daniel Ricciardo take pole position, cruising until the pit stop stage when his Red Bull crew had a slapstick mix up with the tyres. This allowed Lewis Hamilton to pass, securing victory over the crestfallen Australian. There was a happy epilogue for Ricciardo though – he won an equally epic 2018 race despite suffering from car trouble for most of the race, heroically banishing his Monaco demons.

Rain fell late in 1982, which caused the leaders of the race to change several times in the closing laps – started off by an otherwise imperious Alain Prost slamming into the barriers. After skidding off himself, Riccardo Patrese managed to get going again, securing victory after a tumultuous end. Finally, another rain-affected race in 1996 saw just 6 cars finish – Olivier Panis taking his one and only victory in the Ligier – he is the last Frenchman to win the Monaco Grand Prix.

Despite the detractors – there are even those who think the race should be omitted from the calendar – the Monaco Grand Prix continues to inspire drivers and spectators and deserves its place as Formula One’s marquee event.