Formula 1 has long been considered the world’s most glamorous sport, a billion dollar industry with lavish launches, prototype state-of-the-art cars, and blue-chip sponsors all looking for that winning feeling.
And the end of May traditionally marks the high water mark for all of that glittering opulence, when the eyes of the world turn to the tiny Principality of Monaco, where there has been a Grand Prix since 1929...
… long before the foundation of the Formula 1 World Championship, with 2019 marking 90 years since that inaugural race.
Throughout the eras, this grandfather of all street tracks has remained, in essence, intact, retaining its original charm and challenge.
SOUNDBITE (English) SIR JACKIE STEWART,
3-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
"Well, the track is the same geography. Basically, we've changed, [in that] now we go around the swimming pool, we didn't do that before, just went past from the tobacconist to the gasometer hairpin. There's been [some] small changes - the lighting in the tunnel - today it's like daylight. In my day, it was very dark, and if somebody dropped oil in the middle of the tunnel you would never have seen it.”
All the greats have won there, including the Maestro Juan Manuel Fangio, Sir Stirling Moss, Mr Monaco Graham Hill who like Michael Schumacher has won in the Principality five times…
... with the late, great Ayrton Senna the most successful at Monaco, with six wins, five straight between 1989 and 1993.
… all but one taken with his most famous team, McLaren… which is also the most successful marque there.
The British team has 15 wins since its debut at the track in 1966, six more than Ferrari, but it hasn’t taken victory since 2008. Lotus is next on the list with seven, current star Mercedes has four.
… and while the Silver Arrows are firmly on form, anything can happen in Monaco... where the driver makes the difference.
SOUNDBITE (English) VALTTERI BOTTAS,
F1 DRIVER, MERCEDES:
“It is one of those weekends that you really need to be on top of your game if you want to perform. You need to be so focused all through the weekend, and mentally it’s very exhausting weekend, you have to be so focused [on] every single corner every single lap, because one mistake it’s going to cost you.”
SOUNDBITE (English) LEWIS HAMILTON,
5-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“The most important thing [in Monaco] is that you have to learn to walk before you run, and what I mean by that is that you have to take it quite easy, you have to build up to the pace, so by the time you get to Q3, second run, that’s the time you’re when at 100 per cent, or just over 100 per cent.”
Mercedes has won four of the last six races in Monaco. But like Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel has two victories in the Principality, and will be desperate to make it a third with the Prancing Horse on the back foot.
Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo heads to Monte Carlo as last year’s victor, the Australian then with Red Bull nursing his car home over 50 laps, with a broken MGU-K costing him 2.5 seconds a lap.
And while last year’s race proved that overtaking is nigh on impossible at Monaco, it also showed that anything can happen.
The toughest street track on the calendar, the 3-kilometre Monaco circuit features 19 turns, with seven left and 12 right, and a top speed of just 295 kilometres an hour. Max Verstappen set a new lap record last year for Red Bull. While there’s just one DRS activation zone - along the main straight, with the DRS detection point before Turn 18, La Rascasse.
Tight, twisty and suffering no fools… it’s time for the Monaco Grand Prix.