Introduction Monaco GP
Racing in Monaco is steeped in history. Begining in the early 1950s, it was a sportscar event in 1952, but in 1955 it appeared on the international calendar with a dramatic race which saw Alberto Ascari crash into the harbour and victory go to Maurice Trintignant.
Monaco is a challenging track where the driver plays a more important role than the car and so the race has tended to be won by the best: Ayrton Senna won six times between 1987 and 1993, Graham Hill earned the name "Mr. Monaco" with five wins in the 1960s. Alain Prost has won four times while Stirling Moss and Jackie Stewart took three victories a piece. Michael Schumacher won his fifth Monaco GP in 2001.
From time to time Monaco throws up a surprise: in 1972 Jean-Pierre Beltoise was untouchable in the wet but he never again won a Grand Prix. A decade later Riccardo Patrese scored his first Grand Prix victory in a race that no-one seemed able to win: Prost crashed, Patrese spun, Didier Pironi and Andrea de Cesaris ran out of fuel and Derek Daly leaked oil. Patrese, however, recovered from his mistake and crossed the line, thinking he had lost the race but discovered that he was actually the winner. In 1996 Olivier Panis came through from the midfield in his Ligier to win a remarkable victory.
Over the years there have been tragedies as well; Lorenzo Bandini crashed at the chicane in 1967 and died in the raging fire that ensued and in 1994 young Austrian Karl Wendlinger crashed at the same spot, the resulting head injuries effectively ending his F1 career. In 1973 a new tunnel was built beneath the Loews Hotel and the track from Tabac to La Rascasse was reprofiled to make way for the new swimming pool. Later the Ste Devote and Rascasse Corners were tightened to slow the cars down and in 1986 the chicane was reprofiled for similar reasons.
People have been forecasting disaster for years, but Monaco survives each passing year, even if the safety and facilities are out of step with all the other F1 circuits. Monaco is more than a race. It is the most important Grand Prix of the year, the place where everyone wants to be.
More deals are done at Monaco than at any other race and the glitter of the Principality rubs off on F1 as much as the glamour of F1 reflects on the city.
At Grand Prix time Monaco is a party town and the VIPs pose in the Hotel de Paris or the Hermitage or spend evenings dining on the incredible yachts which fill the harbour each year.
Tackling the Monaco Circuit
From the start (red arrow), driving in a clockwise direction the short acceleration period is rapidly followed by a struggle for position as everyone tries to negotiate the right hand VIRAGE ST. DEVOTE for the first time. This is the most dangerous part of the Monaco Circuit and over the years many spectacular accidents have occurred on this first bend. Curiously enough this is one of the few bends with a 'run-off' area, if you do have to go straight on here it should be survivable. Accelerating up the hill from St. Devote into Casino Square is the first chance to go up through the gears, drivers have to be careful as the road can be bumpy and those white traffic lines are very slippery. Out accelerating someone at the start of the hill is a possibility but further up the race line is much too close to the barriers. Slow down for the tight left and then right through Casino Square and accelerate down hill past the Hotel Metropole.
Keeping it tight to the right as we approach the Hotel Mirabeau, this is a favorite spot for out-braking if you leave a gap. Then we follow the 30mph hairpin at the Monte Carlo Grand Hotel and the sharp right past the fountains and into the Virage Du Portier.
The infamous tunnel is next - this is another opportunity to out-accelerate the car in front if he leaves room. Breaking back into the sun in 6th at 170mph is top speed for the Monaco Race.
The tight left-right of the chicane leads into a short straight and then the swimming pool complex. A hairpin of Virage Rascasse. Slightly uphill now into the very nasty right of Virage Anthony Noghes ....only 77 more laps to go!
*Courtesy of Automobile Club de Monaco.
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