The remarkable history of the Monaco Grand Prix

Everybody knows the Monaco Grand Prix as the most famous race on the Formula 1 calendar. Along with the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Indianapolis 500, it’s considered part of racing’s holy trinity. It’s also by far the most glamorous Formula 1 event, with many of the world’s rich and famous regularly in attendance. 

Monaco has a long and illustrious history as a racing location, which goes further back than Formula 1 itself. The principality hosted its first Grand Prix way back in 1929, with the first Formula 1 World Championship race taking place in 1950. After a 5 year gap, it resumed service in 1955 and has taken place every year since then.

Taking in the streets of Monte Carlo and the famous harbour area, the circuit at Monaco is notoriously compact and involves many tight twists and turns. It also has a unique feature in that it’s the only track to feature a tunnel, which presents an eye adjustment challenge for drivers on every single lap. There have been several serious accidents at Monaco, including one fatality when Lorenzo Bandini succumbed to burns in 1967. Before the 1970s, there were very few safety barriers, and Alberto Ascari and Paul Hawkins managed to end up in the harbour! Safety improvements were made, starting with the introduction of Armco barriers in 1969. By 1972 the circuit was almost fully fitted with barriers, making it much safer.

British driver Graham Hill was famously known as ‘Mr Monaco’ for winning the race 5 times during the 1960s. His 5 wins were later matched by Michael Schumacher, but the all-time record holder at Monaco is Ayrton Senna, who managed 6 victories between 1987 and 1993. In fact, the period between 1984 and 1993 was very interesting at Monaco, with only 2 drivers battling over pole position; Senna and Alain Prost. There was also a scandal in 2006, when Michael Schumacher went into a spin on the crucial Rascasse Hairpin, blocking the track for other cars. This prevented his competitors from beating his time, handing him pole position. Schumacher claimed that this was an honest mistake, but race stewards disagreed and demoted him, leaving Fernando Alonso in pole position.

Due to its long heritage and its iconic and glamorous setting, the Monaco Grand Prix has become one of the most popular and prestigious Formula 1 races to attend, and many celebrities can be spotted on race weekend. Temporary grandstands are set up next to the circuit, especially in the harbour area, and many VIPs even watch from their yachts stationed in the harbour, which offers a unique view of the cars emerging from the tunnel. Many of Monaco’s hotels and other buildings have balconies with excellent views of the circuit, and indeed there is a great selection of packages on offer that provide an endless flow of gourmet food and alcoholic beverages while you enjoy a terrific view of the race. The VIP Suite at Ermanno Palace Monaco Grand Prix is a great example of this, as it provides an excellent view that takes in 70% of the entire track, including the starting straight, the first turning, the tunnel exit and the Rascasse.

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