Time to Get Lucky. It's Monaco!

 


Monaco and Grand Prix racing. They fit. They always have done; and hopefully they always will. Is it always the most entertaining race of the season? No. Do we always see lots of overtaking? No. In all honesty those two responses could fit well into pretty much any race track on the calendar. But there's something that sets apart the streets of Monte Carlo from almost every other track the Formula 1 circus visits over the course of a season - it's a challenge. A challenge to drivers. A challenge to the teams. A challenge to the cars.

Margin for error, minimal. Practically non-existent in fact. Iconic landmarks, a ridiculously over the top, lavish floating car (well, boat) park and intimidating, inviting barriers surround the 2.1 mile circuit to create the most recognisable and romantic motor racing scene on the planet. The Monaco Grand Prix is something else, something beyond Grand Prix racing itself. That's not to forget the racing of course, but for one weekend the location, atmosphere and history all combine to make something out of the ordinary.

Olivier Panis' victory in 1996 is my earliest memory of Formula 1. A Frenchman, racing in a French car, starting 14th on the grid, won the Monaco Grand Prix. I still get goose bumps when re-watching clips from that race. It shows that anything is possible in motor racing, especially around these infamous streets.

I've only visited once before, on a non-F1 weekend. Even then though, you get some sense of what it must be like. Seeing all the corners, the sights, the marina. Feeling the sense of history, of magic and sheer bravery. The concentration required to finish 78 laps around here must be insane. (I find it hard enough to drive 20 laps on a video game without making a complete mess of things.)

Ayrton Senna - 6 wins. Graham Hill and Michael Schumacher - 5 wins. Alain Prost - 4 wins. Stirling Moss and Jackie Stewart - 3 wins. Not a bad list is it? Will this weekend see Fernando Alonso or Mark Webber - the only men on the current grid to have won the race more than once - join this illustrious list?

Talk of wanting the Monaco Grand Prix removed from the calendar is disappointing. Of course, we're all entitled to our opinions. Not everyone is going to like the same things, the same races etc. How awful would that be? But Monaco and Formula 1 - as I said at the start - fit. It's one of the gems on the calendar, if not the gem. It's the one the drivers all want, equally if not more, than their home race. To win in Monte Carlo still means something. Special helmets, special liveries, special drivers. Winning in Formula 1 is special. Winning in Monaco is something beyond special.

It's a point I've raised before, but over recent years I've felt Formula 1 is losing a sense and part of its history. Change is good and often needed, but too much in the wrong places is not. With the fate of many European races unknown, Monaco (along with Silverstone, Spa and Monza) is one that should stay. For the sport, for the drivers, for the fans. How many new circuits have we been to over the past decade or so and felt a sense of nothingness? Of ‘meh'? Korea, Bahrain, Turkey (despite the great circuit). Formula 1 hasn't and didn't seem to settle well there. But Formula 1 in Monaco is a completely different matter.

A thought's just popped into my head (worrying, I know). If Monaco had not been on the calendar for so many years and was instead a new (or new-ish) circuit; would we still like it as much? I say this because at times I think to myself; surely Formula 1 has outgrown these streets? Can it still work? Does it still work? In my head, yes. The romance and history are undoubtedly clouding my judgment here, but I think it's safe to say that Formula 1 can still fit and work in and around Monaco. Just. Had the race been on the calendar for less than 5 years, I'm not certain I'd feel the same way.

One thing is for sure, it's going to be one heck of spectacle. We've got WSR, GP2 and Formula 1 to look forward to across a four day stretch. I for one can't wait. And judging by Twitter, neither can thousands of others. (On a side note, if you like very expensive and very shiny boats, do check out Twitter. It's full of the darn things this week.) It's Monaco week. Daft Punk's new album has just started playing. And I'm off. Soon.

I hope you've enjoyed my ramblings. Here's to a great, long weekend of racing. Whoever wins will have deserved it. Challenges don't come much greater than not only finishing 78 laps in Monaco, but finishing those 78 laps at the front. Good luck to everyone taking part in every category this weekend. May the best drivers win. Right, now I am off. Get Lucky.

Paul Godley - 22/05/2013

Image source: Mark Webber celebrating - via redbull.com

Keep up to date with all the WSR (and F1/GP2) goings-on this weekend by visiting the excellent stoodonthepodium blog. Please do check it out, you won't be disappointed.

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