The Monaco Grand Prix is the jewel on the Formula 1 calendar. Still, the future of the race in the principality is anything but certain. NU.nl reporter Joost Nederpelt sees the famous event on the Mediterranean Sea with his own eyes.
With an estimated value of 285 million euros, cinema, basketball court, swimming pool and a private harbor on board for a smaller boat, the superyacht Octopus is the star of the floating show in Monaco.
The late Microsoft founder Paul Allen’s ship isn’t even docked, simply because it’s too big. Other yachts do float in a visible spot, with decks full of guests who watch the cars race by with a glass of champagne in hand.
Work is underway on one yacht at the Nouvelle chicane. A woman sits at a table, laptop open. She makes a phone call with an annoyed look. ‘Those Formula 1 cars make a lot of noise’, the hard worker seems to think. A few meters away, the drivers squeeze imperturbably through the tight guardrails, watched by the thousands of people who watch the action on the track breathlessly.
The yachts along the track in Monaco. Photo: Getty Images
The madness doesn’t come across well on television
Formula 1 in Monaco is special, and that is especially visible with your own eyes. Even now that the classic race is being covered for the first time by the fixed cameras of the royal class, the madness does not come across well on screen. Especially in the fast-paced pool chicane, every driver who hurtles through it at full throttle seems on its way to a crash.
If you really want to see the talent of the drivers, you have to be in these kinds of places. Even lesser gods like Lance Stroll and Logan Sargeant take the corners in a way that a normal motorist wouldn’t dare in his wildest dreams. Real toppers such as Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso add another shovel to that.
240 euros for a day ticket
Most fans don’t get that close. In Monaco, hundreds of ticketless fans each year hope to catch a glimpse of the action on the track. Matteo and Tomasso, in Ferrari shirts, have taken the train from Italy and are in possession of a ticket. “We paid 240 euros for that”, is the answer when asked about the price. “So that’s just for today. Yesterday we had tickets for another subject. It’s actually way too expensive.” The contrast with the annoyed look of the woman on the yacht in the harbor is stark.
But Monaco is therefore not on the calendar for the likes of Matteo and Tomasso, and certainly not for viewers without a ticket. “It’s all about the glamour, the beautiful background, the history,” says Christian Horner. He knows all about it. His team also has a huge raft in the harbor this year with the accommodation of Red Bull and AlphaTauri on it.
In front of the door, two strict guards stop anyone who even gives the appearance of not belonging. The really important guests arrive on the raft via a private jetty.
Red Bull’s floating ‘Energy Station’. Photo: Getty Images
Outside the fences, the glamor is far away
Yet Monaco is also a barely organized chaos. In the tight streets around the circuit, officers try to manage the endless stream of people, vans and scooters blowing their whistles. Further on at the station, packed trains full of sweating fans empty every morning, who again cram themselves into the same trains with a shoehorn in the evening.
The glamor is far away here. Although there is occasional consternation when a driver makes his way to the circuit or gets out for a moment on the only fan podium. As dozens of telephones go up in one rhythmic movement, screams and “Max, Max, over here!” when the reigning world champion shows up. He smiles and quickly dives back into his van to be escorted back to the paddock by the wildly whistling officers.
The crowds, the tight streets, the logistical nightmare for the teams; it is the characteristics, but also the dangers that threaten the race that will complete its eightieth edition this year. The mechanics are still tinkering with the cars in cramped pit boxes. Team members still have to commute between pit lane and shelter via a maze of walkways and stairs.
These shelters have to be built and dismantled in a narrow street. Every driver who manages to guide his truck through this chaos without damage earns a bonus.
The tight street circuit remains photogenic. Photo: Getty Images
Monaco does not meet the new standard
New Grands Prix in the Middle East, for example, have set a standard that Monaco falls far short of. Then the glamour, the history and the beautiful background are no longer enough.
The ever outspoken Haas team boss Günther Steiner puts his finger on the sore spot: “This was the special circuit on the calendar at first, but we now have several of them. The night race in Singapore, for example, Las Vegas is coming. So they have to really come up with something here that will keep us coming back. Everyone has to move with the times.”
Exactly what Monaco should do remains unclear. There is simply no space for a spacious paddock, parking is only available a few 100 meters away. And adjustments to the track to make overtaking easier are more difficult in practice than in simulations on YouTube.
Last year the race was already under pressure, but there was an extension up to and including 2025. However, the race in Monaco does not seem to have a really long life. Then the superyachts set sail for Abu Dhabi or Jeddah to watch the race, and Matteo and Tomasso watch everything on television from now on. That’s a lot cheaper.