May 25, 2017 - Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo, Monaco. (Credit image: Ian Thuillier/Ian Thuillier Photography)

TeamTalk: How important is Monaco for Formula 1?

May 25, 2017 - Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo, Monaco. (Credit image: Ian Thuillier/Ian Thuillier Photography)

The Monaco Grand Prix has been on the Formula 1 calendar since 1950, with 67 races held at the municipality, known as the crown jewel of Formula 1.

So how important is Monaco for F1?

It is not often that this question is posed, as the race around the streets of the Mediterranean municipality has become such a fixture within the F1 circus over the years, that it would be unthinkable that the sports moves away from it.

But with the announcement of the race in Las Vegas in 2023, McLaren CEO Zak Brown got too excited perhaps, and suggested that new venues like Las Vegas, Singapore, and Miami have the potential to become more glamorous than the historic race, while suggesting that the preferential commercial treatment the event gets should not go on, as the American questioned the quality of the show Monaco puts on.

This was a second red flag for us. The first sign of disrespect towards the Monaco Grand Prix was when, around this time last year, a Saudi prince stated ‘his’ venue would be better: “We are very lucky here in this area of the Corniche, it’s still not developed, so this gave us the opportunity to do a street circuit that is fast and thrilling and exciting, so it’s going to beat Monaco.”

Why this Monaco trash-talking from these two chaps who should know better? Why this narrative? Are they correct in a ‘truth hurts’ kind of way?

A subject like this could not fly by without our TeamTalk panel having a say on it, so we picked everybody’s brains to try to answer the question: How important is Monaco for Formula 1?

David Terrien: F1 without Monaco? Are you serious?

Monaco is one of the three main Motorsport events in the world, the other two being Le Mans and Indianapolis – the unique Triple Crown. Threatening to take Monaco out of the F1 calendar is probably a negotiation tool but it can’t be serious.

Of course, it is almost impossible to overtake but new cars might make it a bit easier. Of course it is a challenge to fit the F1 circus in such a tiny paddock with restricted VIP areas and complicated accesses, but it has been the same from the beginning, and it never stopped drivers, teams, media and sponsors to want to go there.

As a driver, I had the privilege to race in Monaco in F3000 back in 1999 and it remains one of my favorite racetracks. The track is complex to drive and the fast section around the swimming pool is awesome. We hear racing drivers talking about getting in the zone and this definitely applies to Monaco.

The zone takes another dimension while racing in Monaco. You have no chance to perform if you are out of the zone and getting there is unbelievable, as you make one with the car and you are on the edge at all times. The track becomes a tunnel, and this is the only thing your eyes can catch, it drains your energy like no other track because your level of focus is so high, but what a great feeling!

As a driver, no doubt it has to stay on the calendar!

On another note, Monaco is the exclusivity and glamour F1 needs. Of course, enjoying the show as a VIP or a spectator is restricted to very few, but don’t we all want to be VIP’s in Monaco? Don’t we want to sit on that yacht only a few meters from the track and enjoy the night life of the Monaco weekend?

Monaco is definitely special and nothing will ever replace the atmosphere of this particular race weekend on the calendar. – David Terrien.

Damien Reid: Bernie once said that F1 can’t survive without two things; Ferrari and Monaco

Without either, Ecclestone reckoned, you had no F1 and that’s as true today as it’s ever been. Teams enter F1 to beat Ferrari and sponsors invest to go to Monaco, it’s as simple as that!

The Monaco race is as dull as dishwater and barring a botched pitstop of the type that still gives Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas nightmares, the winner is decided by who gets to Casino Square first on Lap One. Make it to the Hotel de Paris in the lead on the opening lap and you can start thinking about a different kind of a bender at La Rascasse happening in about five hours time.

But here’s the thing; Monaco is a bricks and mortar version of Netflix’s Drive to Survive. It out Netflixed Netflix decades ago because it’s aim is not to show off who is the best driver or who won by the biggest margin, it’s about entertaining those who didn’t care for Formula One – until they arrived in the Principality.

Just as D2S pisses off many aficionados because they see it as not being real, the producers don’t care because for every F1 propeller head they turn off who can recite every GP winner and what viscosity of engine oil they ran on the day, they’re winning over legions of kids, soccer mums and casual sports fans who are right now booking out the stands of Las Vegas and Miami, keen to see the real-life version of the TV show.

This has also been Monaco’s job for decades, not to lure the casual fan, but to nab the big fish, the multi-million dollar, multi-year sponsor. Monaco is a business tool for teams and other circuit promoters to entice cashed-up playboys for a weekend of casinos, booze, boats and cars, then once blinded by the glamour of Monte Carlo, lock in a mega-rich deal to sponsor a car, driver or event with an open invite to do it all again next year before the Panadol kicks in.

Let’s face it, no deal to sign a government to commit to building a track or sticking a $300,000 diamond to the nose of an F1 car to promote a Hollywood movie would ever be signed at a place like Hungary no matter how good the Goulash.

Monaco has nearly always and will nearly always, deliver mostly dull racing, but it brings in the cash to feed every other component of F1 life plus the casual viewer who later grows to become a fan. Monaco and Ferrari, never forget those ingredients.

Mark Kay: Comparing Monaco to a new event disrespects F1’s heritage

Let’s face it, the only reason that this topical question was raised is that McLaren CEO Zak Brown was questioned by the media about Monaco’s relevance to F1 considering the announcement of the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix last week.

It is quite possible that Brown’s comments have indeed been taken somewhat out of context, however to me it is only logical that any comparison between F1’s most historical crown jewel and an event only just announced, and not even to be realized yet, is disrespectful to the sport’s heritage.

Of course, in big businesses, there are always commercial considerations that are of great importance, but one of the most important considerations in anything relating to F1 is that it is buried deep in the very essence of what global motorsport heritage is, and consequently, any discussion comparing an event such as the Monaco Grand Prix must be fully cognizant and respectful to that heritage on which the sport was founded, and paved the way for the level of commerce that pays the salaries in this day.

There are three aspects to the Monaco GP, the operational side that the teams experience, the experience of the patron that attends the event, and the show that TV viewers experience. Monaco is a unique and very compact venue, but the most important thing is regardless of what aspect you are viewing the event from, it is everything that F1 is about.

If I were to perceive the intent of Brown’s comments in the way some of the media have portrayed it, I would be quite disappointed that it was a bullish and typically American message disrespectful to one of the cornerstones on which this glorious sport was founded.

I believe that it is important that F1 acknowledges and celebrates its heritage, especially whilst it clearly demonstrates that it is strongly financially sustainable.

Capital gain is important to F1, but only as important as respecting the fundamentals on which the enterprise was founded.

I have a lot of respect for Zak Brown and what he has done for McLaren, but if the intent of his comments about the Monaco GP were in line with the manner in which I am suspicious of, I can only think he has no place in F1. – Mark Kay.

Jad Mallak: Monaco is part of F1’s history, respect that

TeamTalk: How important is Monaco for Formula 1?

Honestly, I was shocked when I read what Zak Brown said about Monaco, and what made it more shocking is the fact that he is a racer himself, and you would expect him to appreciate the history of F1 in a much better way, but sadly his opinion was mostly driven by a “bottom-line” perspective.

As for the sporting aspect, well racing in Monaco can be a procession, but that doesn’t take anything away from the thrill that qualifying around its streets offers, as the best 20 drivers in the world, take the 20 fastest cars in the world to the limit around the twists and turns of the municipality, getting ever so close to the barriers or the walls, sometimes touching them and getting away with it, while on other occasions their laps ending in tears.

Then they have to go and do it again on race day, lap in lap out; and while there aren’t so many overtaking moves around Monaco, when an overtake does happen, it is usually brilliant and showcases the skills of the overtaking driver as well as his victim, while we should not forget the emphasis on the strategy games the teams get to play there, along with the skills and commitment of the drivers as they execute these strategies.

The argument that the new cars are too big for Monaco belongs in the trash, as it is not the track that is wrong, as much as the direction F1 has gone with its cars – bigger and heavier – that should be changed. What Sebastian Vettel said about driving a tour bus being more fun than driving the new cars is telling. So don’t blame it on the track.

And to respond to Brown’s argument in a context similar to his, how would he feel if we build some new oval somewhere in the world, and suggest that it should replace Indy or Daytona? Would that be acceptable? I think not, and that is why his talk about Monaco is nonsense.

Monaco is part of F1’s history, like Spa, like Monza, like Silverstone… and it should remain part of F1 because those who do not know and appreciate their history, are bound to lose their way into the future. – Jad Mallak.

Paul Velasco: Leave Monaco Alone

Photo by Paul Velasco 1991 Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo Ayrton Senna, McLaren-Honda

Nelson Piquet likened driving an F1 car around Monaco like cycling in your living room, that was over thirty years ago; since then those ‘bicycles’ are more like the length of those two-person bicycles.

And therein lies the sore truth about F1 and motorsport for that matter, with the wrong path taken where circuits were first to adapt to the cars rather than the other way around. Ponder that.

There is no turning back, for now, it is what it is. But as awkward and challenging and damaging (to kit) that the Grand Prix in Monaco is, it can never drop off the calendar.

When it did, as far as I can remember, in 2020 it was the one race that did not happen and that was most sorely missed. It is the crown jewel and will always be ever since the first Grand Prix – on the same streets we see them race on today – was organised in 1929 by Antony Noghès, under the auspices of Prince Louis II, through the Automobile Club de Monaco (ACM), of which he was president.

It has since been the crown jewel of the F1 calendar. Just about every great has won there and those who have not will forever lament that fact. It’s a drivers’ circuit, a teams’ circuit, a peoples’ circuit, it’s our circuit. F1’s.

If you are on our side of the fence regarding the matter (are there any that are not?), have a vote at the bottom of this post and feel free to let us know your thoughts.

In closing, those chaps with the fast tongues, seeking Brownie points wherever a mike is pointed at them, spewing a narrative with questionable motive/s by roasting Monaco. For sure, bring on the new venues but not at the expense of hallowed turf.

For me there is just one message from this desk: Monaco is a unique Palace, the real deal diamond of the gorgeous Cote D’Azure; the other two – for now – are Trailer Park wannabes with lots of ‘dubiously earned money’ to flaunt. Bordello’s in their respective deserts; Las Vegas a city of too few winners and far too many losers.

Let’s talk again in 70 years’ time when those venues have been around for seven decades. Until then, leave Monaco alone!

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