Monaco Baby!

We all know the drivers have a love for Monaco. But if the FIA went ‘by the book’ when it comes to track safety, width and regulations, the five-star circuit would have been thrown off the calendar years ago. So why is it still here?

To put it simply, Monaco is too important. The FIA would not just have a fight on its hands not just from the teams, not just from the drivers, but also from the fans. There have not been many classic races by the harbour, but unlike the procession in Bahrain, or the constant lack of overtaking at Spanish races, we don’t mind. Constantly people cry that Formula 1 is no longer a driver’s sport, that the cars are too technically advanced. These people have never watched a Monaco Grand Prix.

In fact, Monaco holds a special place in my heart. I’d never watched an F1 race before, but when I switched on the TV in 1992 to catch Mansell pitting with just a few laps to go, and then that titanic battle with Senna, I was hooked. The skill that both drivers displayed in fighting as hard as possible, Mansell with the faster car, but Senna with the skill, and the lead, yet not ploughing into those unforgiving barriers. That was excitement that got me hooked. I’ve never missed a race since.

This is the point of Monaco. It allows the drivers to show their skills. One mistake and that’s it, there is no tarmac run off, there is no second chance. It allows for a glimpse of the old days, before safety became the be all and end all of the sport. Don’t get me wrong, F1 needs to be safe, but not at the cost of thrilling racing. Monaco offers those thrills.

There have of course been other memorable races, some of which owe this to the circuit’s unique character. 1996 saw three cars finish, due to accidents, failures and poor driving. 2008 saw Lewis Hamilton hit the barrier, and still win the race, the resulting pit-stop doing him a favour when the rain came. But perhaps the most memorable moments are those on-bard camera shots of drivers climbing the hill, just centimeters from the barriers. Or shooting out of the tunnel into blinding daylight, braking hard to duck around the chicane. Then there is the scene of the cars racing along the harbour, with the boats moored just beyond. Oh and Loews, who can forget Loews…

So why is Monaco still on the calendar? Because it allows the FIA to prove that Formula 1 is still a driver sport, and to bring the fans closer to the action than possible at any modern circuit. I know I’m not complaining. When Jenson Button crossed the line to take the chequered flag last year, he summed it up perfectly..

It’s Monaco Baby!!!

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