I know I’m in the minority when it comes to really, truly liking the Monaco Grand Prix.

Sure, a lot of you appreciate the pageantry and how Monaco, with its royalty and uber-rich, in so many ways epitomizes the elitism of Formula 1. (An elitism somewhat lost to the Abu Dhabis of the world, if you think about it.)

But you yawn at the thought of the “processional” race, don’t you?

If so, I’m here to tell you why you’re wrong. Oh so very wrong.

Reason No. 5. The history. The race dates back to 1929 and was part of the first Formula 1 calendar, although it wasn’t until 1955 that it became a permanent race.

Of course, all the long-standing races have their history, and it will come down to what strikes your fancy as being really special, but among Monaco’s historic claims are:

  • It’s where Juan Manuel Fangio won his first F1 race.
  • Ayrton Senna’s dominance. Nuff said?
  • Paul Hawkins’ crash. That an F1 car can end up in water like that is another way to sum up what makes Monaco so special.
  • It plays a huge role in Grand Prix (and, I think, in the new Iron Man movie).

And I’ll also toss in a quote from Fernando Alonso: “I prefer to win the title and not to win here, but this is the most important race on the calendar, with the most attention and media coverage all over the world and it is very important for the sponsors. It is a special race and everyone wants to win it.”

Yep.

No. 4. The pageantry. Yes, the pageantry. While it isn’t my top reason for liking Monaco, there is something extra special about a race through this unique little city-state.

And sure it is related to the history, but it is also something else. We have royalty looking on. We have rock stars and celebrities beyond the usual numbers. We have the casinos and the whole “image” of what Monaco and Monte Carlo are. Everything’s just a little more beautiful, a little more rich, a little more better.

It’s like the Masters Tournament of Formula 1.

Rationale No. 3. It is viewer friendly.

I don’t want to over-emphasize nor under-emphasize this point. I think it’s important, but it isn’t critical.

But Monaco is a track where you immediately know what you are seeing when the camera switches to a new shot of the circuit.

I don’t think I have to compare it to a Tilke track. That’s too obvious, and easy. But even a Silverstone or a Spa or a Monza don’t have iconic buildings plus the iconic turns and short-straights (and the tunnel!) to immediately situate your perspective as a viewer. (It makes Monaco the best race to introduce F1 to a new potential fan.) They have some, I know, and long-time race fans will know the track. But the green trees of Spa or Monza in the background are the green trees of Spa or Monza.

If the TV cuts to Lewis Hamilton negotiating the Grand Hotel Hairpin, you know it. If you suddenly are watching Adrian Sutil pass the Swimming Pool, you know it. If Michael Schumacher is stopped, you know he’s at Rascasse. (Sorry, Todd, I couldn’t resist!)

Casino. Tabac. Nouvelle Chicane (Hi Adrian and Kimi!). They are all immediate, special, remarkable.

Argument No. 2. Qualifying. Because qualifying is so important here, and because the track is short and tight and drivers can get caught out so easily (witness all the worries about the 24 cars this weekend), it is my single favorite moment of the entire year. Hands down, my top moment of 2009 was Jenson Button nailing that pole position at the last moment in Monaco. (This one also is directly related to reason No. 1, which is…)

And the No. 1 reason why Monaco is the best race in the world…

None of us could drive it. (Maybe Paul Charsley, excluded.)

This, ultimately, is the one reason that matters and the one reason that makes Monaco the best race in the world. I’ll let you argue the other points. This one, nope. It all comes down to this.

Sure Monaco is slower than most other circuits. Sure it is a “street course.” But have you seen the margin for error? Why do you think this week Alonso also said “the driver factor is also higher than at other tracks.”

Put me in a Porsche GT3 (RS, if you ouldn’t mind, and heck, a GT2 RS if you’re really asking) and let me loose on the other tracks, and I’d be able to hustle the car around. I know I could manage Valencia and Silverstone, I believe I could get a handle of Spa and Canada, and I’m pretty confident I could learn to feel at ease at Melbourne and Singapore. Not to mention Indianapolis, even Le Mans, although I might be hard pressed to go the distance in either race.

But Monaco? To really try to push? I don’t think so.

And so while I’m watching practice and qualifying and the race this weekend, I’ll be sitting comfortably in my chair enjoying a Monte Carlo (1-1/2 oz bourbon or rye; 1/2 oz Benedictine plus 2 dashes aromatic bitters) and marveling at these drivers more than I do anytime during the season.

Every moment, from the first lap of practice to the last lap of the race, feels like it is on the edge, because it is. The smallest “moment” could end in disaster.

And so every moment is super exciting.

So go ahead, call it processional. Disparage it as a street race. Complain about the tight hair pins. Monaco is on the limit the entire time.

And that makes it the best race in the world.*

* Baring, perhaps, a rally here or there. But I’m not even convinced that can be called racing. It’s closer to madness. Or to MotoGP.

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John Stone
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John Stone

SJ,

I think you’re in the majority, I though most fans wanted to see Monaco GP, and Spa….

John “I like Monaco” Stone

Doug
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Doug

The Monaco GP is certainly a great motorsports event, but best race? Come on, SJ. Seriously? I have no argument with any of those five points you make, but those five points don’t make it a great race. They make Monaco a great event. There’s a big difference here. Spa is a great race. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a great race. Monaco, for all of its awesomeness, is a crap race.

F1 Kitteh
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F1 Kitteh

Reason #6 – it comes right after Spain, and no matter what happens (or not) it would be hard to beat that on the boredom scale!

Girts
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Girts

I can understand you very well, SJ. For me, Monaco GP is probably not the best race in the world. My choice would be the Albert Park in Melbourne. I just love the palms, the lake, the shadows and waking up in the middle of the night to celebrate the start of the new season. (Okay, this year it was a bit different.) But it is important to point out that overtaking is not the only thing that makes a great racing. F1 would, of course, not survive without overtaking manouevres. But it is also hard to imagine F1 without… Read more »

peterriva
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peterriva

My brother was the Production Designer on Iron man… I can assure you Monte Carlo was chosen BECAUSE it is the No. 1 F1 event period.

mark h
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mark h

I’d still tip my cap to Spa – but Monaco is the premiere event of the season, and a fascinating race… (Is this an appropriate time to mention that I’ll be at an even more demanding race circuit this weekend, and might well miss quali and the race? Or does that guarantee me a West-coast smackdown?)

Reason #6, for me, would be the disproportionately large effect a bit of rain can have on the race.

Fandangio
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Fandangio

Monaco’s a great race, throw into the mix a possible upside down grid (if it rains on Saturday) and lapping backmarkers (where will they find to hide) and I think this weekends race has the potential to be the most exciting of the season so far.

Can’t wait!

Dex
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Dex

You forgot to mention one thing.

Monaco provides the single greatest camera shot in F1 and maybe all of sport.

The low and tight head on shot of the cars entering ‘Swimming Pool 1’ is absolutely beyond breathtaking and possibly physics!

That view alone is the reason that there is simply nothing quite like an F1 car in full flight.

Dex

gsprings
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gsprings

i think the indy 500 is still the greatest,and has a richer history than even the monaco gp,and has been around longer

Dex
Guest
Dex

The 500 is a shadow of its former self and almost irrelevant now, sadly.

Le Mans is now the daddy of the all IMHO.

Dex

Negative Camber
Admin
Negative Camber

I’m going to have to agree here. Le Mans is the mother of all races and I am an F1 guy. I absolutley love Le Mans…there is no other race like it in the world. Indy 500 is no where close on my radar screen when it comes to Le mans.

mark h
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mark h

To quote Marcel Fässler: 75 corners are better than 5 straights.

gsprings
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gsprings

i looked it up and yes the indy 500 has been around since 1910 and is the largest single day sporting event in the world with a seating capacity of 257,000 including the infield we are talking 400,000 people at the race,i am not even sure it is that many people in the whole city of monaco,remember when f1 raced at indy it was f1’s biggest attended race,and f1 itself confirmed the importance of the indy 500 by racing at the place where the indy 500 is held,and they may be returning there,just from the amount of people at the… Read more »

Negative Camber
Admin
Negative Camber

I may be wrong but I am thinking Indy 500 has not seen that type of attendance in years.

mini696
Member
mini696

If I had to choose my fav track, this would be it.

ADeadLink
Guest
ADeadLink

I still prefer Suzuka.