You can be sure Daniel Ricciardo didn’t find this race boring. He was too busy managing an epic performance; keeping his Red Bull running while resisting pressure, staying away from the barriers and aiming for the Grand Prix win that continues to rate high on any driver’s CV – despite what the Monaco detractors may say.
You could be equally certain that quite a few of the writers offering criticism never leave the media centre (except to pose on the grid) and fail to grasp that this Grand Prix is a one-off – and very special because of it.
Yes, the street track is something of an anachronism thanks to the most glamorous sections being just as they were for the first race back in 1929. But the unique demands – precision, stamina, concentration – remain exactly as they were back in the day. Without getting into the rights and wrongs of bloated, downforce-excessive cars running on fragile tyres, one race a year with challenges such as this surely does no harm?
Some carping commentators speak as if they didn’t see this coming; as if a processional race (in terms of no overtaking) is something new in the Principality.
In 1968, just five cars finished, the last one seven laps behind the winner, Graham Hill. And yet the tension endured to the very end as Richard Attwood (a Nico Hülkenberg of his day) chased down the leading Lotus, white marks on the sides of Attwood’s Goodyears showing how the dark green BRM had clipped the kerbs while knocking more than a second off the lap record on his last of 80.
A cracking wheel-to-wheel contest? Certainly not. A sense of occasion? Absolutely. Whether the Englishman would actually have taken the win had he caught the crafty Hill didn’t matter. Much as Ayrton Senna’s stout defence of the lead on knackered rubber denied Nigel Mansell his sixth successive win at the start of the 1992 season. It made an irrelevance of the claim that Mansell would have whistled past the McLaren at any other track; this was Monaco, and Senna used it to the maximum.
What about the incredible finish in 1982 when Riccardo Patrese crossed the line without realising he had won? A few drops of rain caused chaos as the lead changed hands four times in as many laps. No one actually overtook another moving car. But that didn’t matter. This was Monaco, and all the drama associated with it.
I’ve always been a fan of street circuits, seeing them as a throwback to how racing began. A season full of them would never work but one or two sprinkled across the calendar brings variety to any world championship worthy of the name. Saying that, the environment and layout need to be right. Singapore works. Valencia, for all its apparent challenges in an interesting location, did not.
You may not approve of Monaco’s expensive trappings but these are part of a canvas that allows racing drivers to paint an entirely different picture than usual. It’s a surprise that Fernando Alonso, despite being grumpy due to retirement, hasn’t realised that after 17 Grands Prix on these streets.
The danger is that familiarity often breeds contempt. As a place to work, Monaco can be a nightmare, with pits, paddock, media centre and broadcasting booths spread far and wide, separated on occasions by over-zealous officials capable of closing access routes simply because they can. But that’s our problem.
As a place to be, sitting high in the grandstand, Monaco has no equal. There’s no way of knowing this, but I would be willing to bet that the vast majority of spectators making their way around the town on Sunday evening will have loved every minute of being part of something that has no equal in the motor racing world.
Like the special chemistry connected with driving a Formula 1 car around Monaco, the aura that goes with it has remained constant over the decades. Just ask Daniel Ricciardo.