The sun glistens over a sparkling Mediterranean filled with super yachts. The stunning villas perch precariously over narrow streets. It could be any weekend in Monte Carlo but this is different. This weekend, the Principality plays host to one of the greatest spectacles on earth – the Monaco Grand Prix.
It’s the jewel in the crown of the F1 season. Truly iconic and draped in history, Monaco has been the scene of remarkable races and some agonising adversity.
With an intoxicating cocktail of sun, glamour, yachts and cars, the stands are packed to capacity with spectators every year.
It’s the race every F1 enthusiast wants to visit, but it’s also the race that every driver wants to win.
“There is no track like Monaco, it’s the highlight of the year,” said Renault’s Niko Hulkenberg.
“It’s unique and special in every aspect and I massively look forward to it. It is probably the most glamorous Grand Prix on the calendar and there is no place like it to give you a buzz and a sensation of speed.”
Big Cars, Narrow Streets
The Circuit de Monaco hosted its first race in 1950 and since then the track has largely remained unchanged.
If the drivers can ignore the picturesque Mediterranean, modern yachts, and the surrounding glamour, they will have plenty of challenges on the track to navigate.
Laid over just 3.3 kilometres, the Circuit de Monaco is one of the most difficult circuits to master. And this year, the larger cars on the already narrow street circuit will be sure to create problems.
“We have new cars this weekend which are wider and faster, so that’s going to be a massive challenge,” explains Lewis Hamilton.
“In trying to push the car as close as you can to the limit, it’ll be a real test of your awareness of where the car is. I’m sure there will be some brushing of the barriers.”
“The most important thing is that you have to learn to walk before you run. You have to build up to the pace so that, by the time you work up to that second run in Q3, you’re at 100 percent.”
The Circuit de Monaco gives the drivers no chance for respite as they make their way through the tight and tricky corners.
The opening lap traffic jam will need to content with Turn 1 – Sainte Devote – a 90 degree right-hand corner that has been the scene of many collisions and some conspiracy theories during the heated Hamilton versus Rosberg battles.
From there, the cars have a rare opportunity to open the throttle through Beau Rivage before a challenging series of corners starting with the right-hand Mirabeau, the classic left Grand Hotel Hairpin turn, and right-turn Portier leading to Formula 1’s only tunnel.
Coming out of the tunnel the drivers can briefly glimpse the yacht-lined portion of the track while they push through the chicane and pool sections and try to avoid the barriers.
“The best parts of the lap are the quick sections. The swimming pool is impressive because we carry so much speed and you have to be very precise on the kerbs. Casino is also very quick and with these cars will be quite a challenge. There’s no room for error so you need to be careful that the car doesn’t step out of line through these parts of the lap.”
Button returns for McLaren
Jenson Button will return to the track from McLaren this weekend in place of Alonso who is competing in the Indy 500.
Button stepped back from Formula 1 after last season and has been filling his time with triathlons and occasional corporate appearances for McLaren.
But as the reserve driver, he is getting back in the hot seat for the Monaco Grand Prix.
“It feels slightly surreal to be back in the cockpit for the Monaco Grand Prix. When the call came from Eric there was no hesitation – it’s a totally unique situation and a great opportunity. I’m looking forward to stepping back behind the wheel for one of the most crazy, unpredictable and exciting races of the year.”