As Bernie Ecclestone put it once, Monte Carlo doesn’t need Formula 1, Formula 1 needs Monte Carlo. Probably, the only European venue of the calender which has not to fear being cancelled.
When Anthony Noghes walked through the streets of Monte Carlo in 1927 and showed his assistants the would be circuit’s layout he probably wouldn’t have dared to think that the Grand Prix which was held two years later in 1929, would live in 2015, too, when space-age racing cars would run at 280 km/h on the same route.
The Monaco Grand Prix, after the inaguration of the F1 World Championship in 1950 became the highlight of the season, and nowadays, in a period when circuits like Nürburgring and Monza can freeze of the danger regarding their future, the travel agencies already can continue with thier advertisements for hotel bookings for the 2016 or even 2017 Monaco Grands Prix. For 2015 they probably were full back in 2014.
The Monaco Grand Prix – a racing thrill and high society glamour which makes a perfect mix of cometogether of the F1 superstars and the film icons from the nearby Cannes Film Festival, along with some ordinary kings, princes and presidents. This image was largely helped by the marriage of Prince Rainier III and Hollywood actress Grace Kelly who despite her American origin created the Monte Carlo dream during her reign until her tragic accident in September 1982.
I had a wonderful career with many successes, still I regret I had never won in Monaco…
Not a wonder that when John Frankenheimer shot his epic film Grand Prix in 1966 the most important scenes were made during the 1965 Monaco Grand Prix. The artistical performance of James Garner and Yves Montand were supported by the presence of the start pilots of the era, from Graham Hill to Bruce McLaren, even the great Juan-Manuel Fangio turned up in a shot.
When you search for quotations of past drivers, they are somehow united giving their verdict on racing in Monte Carlo: not only demanding but punishing. The slightest error will send you immediately in to the guardrails. This is why Monte Carlo earned itself a high status in the Grand Prix ranking. Winning here meant not only a handshake with the Prince and the Princess but the driver became a member of an elite group: the winners of the Monaco Grand Prix.
Emerson Fittiapaldi told me a few years ago: ”I had a wonderfull career with many successes, still I regret I had never won in Monaco…”
And another sentence worthy of citatation was by Enzo Ferrari: ”In Monte Carlo even the driver in the last finishing position can say he is a winner after surviving this torturous race!”
If we look at the history of this race, an event without serious crashes which were rarities. Mercifully, fatality occured only once in 1967 when Lorenzo Bandini, hunting race leader Denis Hulme, spun into the armco. The Ferrari No.18. caught fire and due to the period’s poor safety standards, Bandini, severely burned, lost his life three days later. Perhaps surprisingly there were only two drivers who happened to land in the Mediterrain sea with their racing machine. In 1955, double World Champion Alberto Ascari running in first position, crashed his Lancia; and exactly ten years later American Paul Howkins repeated Ascaris’s manoeuvre – both emerged uninjured after their diving-driving.
And those Monte Carlo masters – and also some other greats who never succeeded to win here.
In the 1960s Britain’s Graham Hill collected 5 Monaco trophies which achievement baptised him as Mr. Monaco. It took almost three decades when Ayrton Senna surpassed Hill’s record winnig on the street circuit 6 times, having his last win here in his last Monaco appearance in 1993. Michael Schumacher also has a formidable Monte Carlo credit with 5 wins between 1994-2001.
On the other hand quite a few legends, like in the case of Fittipaldi, never had the chance to bow in front of the Royal Box: Jim Clark, James Hunt, Mario Andretti or Monaco-maverick Nelson Piquet. Instead of them, many pilots gained their first (and sometimes only) Grand Prix victory around the streets of the Principality: Trintignant, Hulme, Beltoise, Depailler, Patrese, Panis and Trulli.
In the 21st century Monte Carlo as a Grand Prix scene is probably safer than ever. Still, it remained the biggest challange. Many confess, that there is no perfect lap in Monaco, but, who gains pole position halfway through generally won the race itself.
Let’s see who is next in 2015 on the streets of Ste. Devote, Casino, Mirabeau, Portier and the Anthony Noghes, which for the millions of fans around the world are as familiar as they were in their neighbourhood!