The Monaco Grand Prix was first run in 1929. Despite featuring on the inaugural Formula One World Championship calendar in 1950, the race was omitted between 1951 and ’54, but it’s been staged every year since ’55. Much of the track layout has remained unchanged during that time.
What makes the track unique
It’s the shortest and slowest circuit on the calendar, but it’s also one of the most demanding. The average speed around the tortuous streets is only 160km/h (100mph), but the lack of run-off results in the smallest of mistakes being punished.
Poor. The track is made up entirely of public roads, which are opened to street traffic each evening of the race weekend. Grip levels are poor, particularly at the start of each day, prior to any rubber being laid down.
Minimal. Three layers of Armco line both sides of the racetrack, which makes it very unforgiving. At the end of the two longest straights, into Turns One and 10, the barriers have been pushed back to provide greater run-off and TecPro barriers provide an extra degree of cushioning in the event of an accident.
Watch out for…
Turns 13 and 14, the Swimming Pool Chicane. It’s a left-right flick taken in fifth gear at 215km/h (133mph) and a barrier at the exit collects anyone who gets out of shape. “A great challenge,” according to Fernando Alonso.
Fernando Alonso: “Monaco is such a special place. I don’t think there are many drivers in the world that can say they don’t like racing there. Because it’s so narrow, and overtaking is almost impossible, it can be incredibly frustrating, but the feeling when you put together the perfect lap, or manage an overtaking manoeuvre, is all the more satisfying.
“It’s a real challenge to get the set-up right for Monaco because of its unique characteristics, but often we see some unpredictable racing there because the nature of it tends to shuffle the pack up. I’m optimistic that we can dial-in our car to suit the track because we have a very well-balanced chassis, so it will be interesting to see how we measure up when the circuit’s characteristics are more likely to play to our strengths.
“The most obvious characteristic of the Monaco circuit is that qualifying is probably more important there than at any other track. Getting through to Q3 in Barcelona for the first time since the McLaren-Honda partnership was reunited was definitely a boost for the team, so our aim, of course, will be to replicate that to give ourselves the best possible chance in Monaco.
“Monaco is a very demanding race, so reliability and strategy will be key in order to maximise the potential in our chassis and power unit at this circuit. After a disappointing result in the race in Spain, I’m pleased to see that our work completed at the test was encouraging, so I hope that can translate to a positive performance for the whole team next weekend. It’s definitely one of the best races of the year.”
Jenson Button: “I love this track – although we are now seeing more street circuits appearing on the Formula 1 calendar, Monaco is like no other in the world. It requires a completely unique set-up – more traction, high downforce, more steering angle, softer suspension – and the feeling you get driving around there is among the best you experience as a driver.
“It’s not a fast circuit, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel it. The barriers are so close you feel like you can reach out and touch them, and you need absolute 100% focus and concentration to get the most out of each lap, every lap – or pay serious consequences. One small mistake and you’ll definitely be punished, which is what makes it such a great driver’s track. It’s a real test, and one we look forward to taking every year we go back there.
“The feeling at Monaco is completely unique. I’ve definitely adopted it as another home race after Silverstone, and after all these years it still does feel pretty surreal driving around your back yard, although while the grand prix is in town the place takes on a whole new atmosphere. Despite its long history, it’s still got the glamour, the excitement, the beautiful backdrop, and always produces something unexpected.
“I’ve had a bit of bad luck over the last few races, so coming home with two points in Barcelona was definitely a positive on my side of the garage. Monaco is a completely different ball game, but one where the strengths of our car should shine through a bit more than in Spain if we hook up all of the elements, so I’m excited to see what we can do there. There are so many variables to come together, so it won’t be easy, but our testing programme last week went well so I’m hopeful we can put a lot of that learning into practice come Thursday in Monaco.”