The oldest race on the Formula 1 calendar is also one of the most glamorous and most dangerous. The 68th running of the Monaco Grand Prix took place last weekend. Miss it? Here's why you should pay attention.
Photo credits: Ladies, Gero Breloer/Associated Press; all others, Getty Images.
Because it's glamorous.
Monaco's F1 race is held on a 2.075-mile temporary circuit erected on the streets of one of the largest — and oldest — concentrations of wealth in the world. Unless you are Bill Gates, this is where you go to feel poor. No other major motorsport event is held in a sun-drenched land of such privilege and snootery. Everyone from Jay-Z to Prince Charles hangs out on yachts in the harbor.
Because the circuit is tight as hell.
Monaco's roads are draped over a section of jagged coastline, darting in and out of various chunks of billion-dollar real estate. While they look normal in pictures, that's only because everyone shoots them with wide camera lenses — in some places, the track is only inches wider than two side-by-side cars. (Nelson Piquet once likened racing at Monaco to trying to bicycle around your living room. Sounds about right.)
Because there's a freaking tunnel.
The fastest part of the track, and the only section drivers claim to take flat-out, runs through a tunnel. It used to be somewhat dark, but it is now well-lit. F1 cars; 175 mph; a tunnel. A tunnel. The sound could wake God.
Because you can watch it from your pool/yacht/bed made of money/whatever.
Because the track winds in and out of the city, there are thousands of excellent vantage points that also happen to be hotel balconies, apartment windows, or yachts. Many drivers live in Monaco for tax reasons, compounding the romance. (Ayrton Senna famously went home to his apartment in the middle of the 1988 race after crashing out of the lead.) Just two drivers have ended up in the harbor. So far.
Because it hasn't really changed.
Oh, sure, things are different — the catch fencing and armco seem to grow every year, the spectators are nowhere near as privileged as they once were, and so on — but eight decades after hosting their first race, the track and the city are largely the same. Drivers still perform more single-day gearshifts here than at any other F1 event; passing is still nigh impossible unless you're brave or stupid. Monaco is still gloriously hard on both man and machine. This picture was taken in 1957. It was magical then, it's magical now.