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The Monaco Grand Prix remains the jewel in the crown of the Formula 1 calendar.
Offering a stunning backdrop for some of the sport’s finest images, a race track that every driver dreams of conquering, and the setting for many of the big-money deals that are F1’s essential lifeblood, the Principality’s famous street circuit exudes timeless charm.
The list of past winners reads like a roll call of the great and good of the sport, with Ayrton Senna’s claiming a record six victories, Graham Hill and Michael Schumacher five apiece, Alain Prost four and Stirling Moss and Jackie Stewart both three.
A permanent fixture on the calendar since 1955, the circuit – formed entirely of roads accessible to the public outside of (and indeed during) race weekends – is famed for its narrow parameters, its unforgiving nature, and the difficulty of overtaking.
As such, qualifying is particularly critical at Monaco – make a mistake on Saturday and Sunday tends to be a long and frustrating slog. With good reason, Nelson Piquet’s remark that racing around Monaco is like “riding a bicycle around your living room” remains the most famous description applied to the famed circuit.
The Principality’s favourable tax laws means Monte Carlo has traditionally been the place where a number of the sport’s top stars call home (and thus is literally the closest many of them come to driving a F1 car around their living room). Indeed, after crashing his McLaren at Portier while leading the 1988 Grand Prix, legend has it that Senna simply returned directly to his flat, with his McLaren team not hearing from their driver until the next day.
The circuit – which takes six weeks to set up prior to the race weekend and three to dismantle afterwards – is unique in a few other quirky respects. For instance, it is the only race on the calendar not to possess a podium, with the top-three finishers receiving their trophies on the steps of the royal box instead.
Another novelty is the parties on the Saturday night of the grand prix weekend which frequently spill out onto the track. Sky Sports F1’s Martin Brundle once famously remarked that Monte Carlo is the only race on the calendar where the marshals have to collect cocktail glasses and champagne bottles from the circuit on a Sunday morning!
While detractors of the race point to its lack of overtaking, the Monaco GP’s worldwide reputation wasn’t built on the race being a passing-fest and the sheer uniqueness of the event is why it continues to be an indispensable part of the fabric of the sport.
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