In the legend of Formula 1, there is a Grand Prix apart. A unique race where thrills, speed and glamour. In Monaco, Formula 1 changes in dimension and is no longer quite a sport. The stars rush there, the spectators look for a yacht or a palace in height to see the racing cars hurtling down the streets and the pilots seek to shine.
Mythical voice of Formula 1 and consultant for Canal, which broadcasts all the races, Jean-Louis Moncet explains to Point why this Grand Prix always fascinates, and distills some anecdotes.
The Point: A month ago, Formula 1 was in Miami for a very glamorous and people Grand Prix. The new GPs are also banking on this spectacle on and off the track. How does Monaco keep its special side?
Senna hits the rail. He gives up. There is all of Monaco in the 1988 GP.
What is the most beautiful Monaco Grand Prix in history?
(Laughs.) That’s a very good question. In Monaco, there is no direct rivalry because of the overtaking difficulties. There will never be attacks between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc like in Miami or Bahrain. On the other hand, in Monaco, there are historical foundations. People who are 60-70 today will talk about Beltoise winning in the pouring rain in 1972; the Italians will retain Ferrari’s victories. In 1970, Jack Brabham led the race from the 28th lap and, 400 meters from the finish, he shot straight and Jochen Rindt won. Same for Panis who overtook Irvine and rushed Coulthard to win in 1996. In 1965, Graham Hill shot straight out of the tunnel. He gets out of his car and puts it back in the direction of travel. He restarts and wins the race. Monaco is the Grand Prix of oddities. I also remember 1988. This year, Ayrton Senna starts first, Prost is third. Alain manages to pass Berger. Ayrton is flying on the circuit, he is almost a lap ahead. You think, “He’s going to trick her, he’s going to humiliate her.” McLaren boss Ron Dennis asked him a few laps from the finish to slow down. Senna does not obey. After three or four messages, he obeys and slightly lowers the speed. Before the tunnel, he takes the bend as usual, except that he no longer has the same speed. It hits the rail. He gives up. There is all of Monaco in the 1988 GP.
There is an extra soul when it rains…
Rain is not the most practical thing in Monaco. As the circuit is in the city, the drainage of the streets is not easy. There are puddles forming, and the danger is aquaplaning. You have to be careful at all times. In 1972, Jean-Pierre Beltoise got off to a good start and won after a daunting Grand Prix; he didn’t foul, unlike Jackie Stewart. Monaco is a revealer. Fangio delivers his first GP in Monaco. He is in the lead. He arrives at the tobacco shop and finds that the onlookers are not watching him arrive and are looking to the right; he slows down, he brakes and sees ten cars piled up. It can avoid the traffic jam. We said to ourselves “Fangio has the vista of racing”.
It’s an endurance race.
We used to say that in Monaco driving trumps single-seaters. But we see that it is always the leading manufacturers who win. There are few surprises.
I’m going to give you Alain Prost’s secret. He felt that it was the most tiring GP of the season because of the heat, the physique, the concentration… So he said to me: “In Monaco, I prefer to build myself a comfortable car, certainly less efficient over a lap for qualifying, but be more relaxed for the race. He has won the race four times. There are few surprises in Monaco, as it is an endurance race. For small stables, you have to know how to take your time. There will be withdrawals and we can pick up points. This year again, it will be played out between Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes.
There are curses in Monaco. Charles Leclerc never finished his Grand Prix, even during an exhibition during which he hit the wall…
He’s on a bad streak. On the historic GP, it’s the brake disc that breaks. He can do something very well in Monaco. We see that he makes demonstrations at each qualification. It’s impressive. And, in Monaco, whoever has pole position has every chance of winning the race. The car is excellent. I don’t believe in curses. Nico Rosberg, who lived in Monaco, said: “The GP, I did it on a moped at least a thousand times. And he won it three times.
After the madness of last year with this fight to the death between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, does this season keep all its promises?
It’s been a fabulous season, even if the end result hasn’t lived up to Formula 1 standards. I think the way it ended was unfair to both Hamilton – he lost the title – and Verstappen – his crown is tainted. This start to the season is fantastic with this battle between Red Bull and Ferrari. The rivalry between Max and Charles has nothing to envy to that between Max and Lewis in 2021. Will Mercedes rise to the level of the other two? A third team joining in the fight for the title would be great.
You have been following Formula 1 for many years. Do you still enjoy covering this seemingly resurgent discipline?
“Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life,” Confucius said. When I started out, I experienced a certain golden age. We then had a rough time for ratings with a dominant Michael Schumacher, even though half the world loved him and half hated him. Afterwards, there was the Hamilton cycle, it was interesting to see him progress, but the interest wore off because there was no adversity. For the past three years, the renewal has been important and we take great pleasure every weekend.