Solving the mystery of Monaco

Michel Ferry

The Automobile Club de Monaco (ACM) has been responsible for the most prestigious Grand Prix of the year for so long that almost no one can remember it. Circuit de Monaco is the rarest of gems in mines of racing circuits. Mostly because it’s not a racing track, at all it’s a unique combination of city streets, elevation shifts, tight corners, narrow regions and, let’s be honest, quite a bit of danger. Not to mention the famous mix with the most impressive spectacle of luxury and high-end motorsport business. We sit down with Michel Ferry, General Commissioner and head of Formula 1 operations at ACM, to talk about important updates and interesting prospects of the sport in Monaco.

The GP of GPs

On April 14, 1929, Prince Pierre inaugurated the 1st Monaco Grand Prix, and performed a lap of honour in a Voisin Torpedo driven by Race Director Charles Faroux. Since that exact moment, no one was or is indifferent to this outstanding event. The Principality’s picturesque location, beautiful harbour, mild climate and grand casinos make it one of the best-known and luxurious resorts on the French Riviera. It has an international aura reflected in its appeal to tourists from around the globe together with an flawless reputation for culture. It’s the perfect setting for one of the most recognisable sporting venues in the world – the Monaco Grand Prix.

This particular Grand Prix is not only at the very pinnacle of glamour, but also it’s the oldest Grand Prix in the book. For the Organisational Committee of the Automobile Club de Monaco, this 72nd edition of the Grand Prix de Monaco – as always – requires a flawless preparation to host the 6th round of the Formula 1 World Championship, scheduled in the Principality.

The Monaco Grand Prix, understandably and undoubtedly, is not an event to miss. A world-renowned event which will have a few surprises this year, thanks to a change in the technical regulations. A revolution has been underway for a few months since the atmospheric V8 2.4L gave way to turbo V6 1.6 L, which plunges the entire discipline in a new era. From the sport side, it’s very difficult to predict who will succeed Nico Rosberg, last year’s winner after 78 laps of the urban track done masterfully. This was exactly 30 years after the success of his father Keke in the Principality’s streets.

There is neither mystery nor exclusivity in Monaco. But the issue is about the accommodation and welcoming capacity for the visitors, which is quantified and limits the possibility of access.

“The Automobile Club de Monaco is in charge of the organization of the event, from a sportive and technical point of view, since 1929. It has not changed over the last years. The only significant change is that I was not in charge of the Formula 1 Grand Prix in 1929”, Michel jokes. “I am very satisfied with the 2014 Formula 1 season so far. The automobile development is on its way, and this very edition is part of it, specially designed for motorsport development. The electrical and hybrid power cannot be out of the Formula 1 any longer. As a matter of fact, the public might only miss the famous Formula 1 noise; but in Monaco, the buildings being very close, there will be no big difference. There was a meeting in London on the 1st of May about this issue”.

Commercial friction

The track, obviously, is a specifically a non-permanent one, which has to be entirely built, in the middle of an intense urban activity. And, more importantly, the works have to be done without disrupting or disturbing the aforesaid activity.

Experts of Formula 1 are always arguing whether the sport should be more open to the crowd or keep its exclusivity. According to Michel, Monaco stands out in this debate: “There is neither mystery nor exclusivity in Monaco. But the issue is about the accommodation and welcoming capacity for the visitors, which is quantified and limits the possibility of access. Approximately 200,000 people come during these four days, which is already a fairly complicated/sensible situation to deal with, you must agree”.

“Thanks to the circuit, the Principality is glamorous. The luxury hotels, terraces and yachts offer a big capacity for receptions, accommodation and remarkable, great experiences. This all contributes to starting new quality business relationships in this unique, as of today, and so exceptional place named Monaco. It also offers the perfect mix of climate, ambience and luxury facilities for the business community to meet and develop new business links”, Mr Ferry says.

The current President of ACM is Michel Boeri, and aside from this role, Boeri is also the President of the FIA’s Senate and Vice-President of the World Motor Sport Council. Trained as a lawyer, Boeri’s father was also President of the ACM, however, his influence stretches much further and was at one point tipped for taking over from former FIA president, Jean-Marie Balestre. With the charge of managing the commercial assets of the Monaco Grand Prix, Boeri has successfully negotiated with Bernie Ecclestone to guarantee the future of event with special conditions such as trackside advertising. It is the only track on the calendar with such an agreement concerning advertising.

After the race

So are there any new investments or business ventures in the area that Automobile Club de Monaco is excited about? “Well, we are always improving the crucial spectator experience, with better entertainment facilities, for visitors to the Grands Prix (Historic and Formula 1). Next year, we will host a Formula E race, which aligns with the ACM’s long-standing commitment to the development of new energy solutions in the auto industry and its sport – that’s always interesting and motivates us to work harder”, Mr Ferry states. The Formula E Championship, naturally, focuses around three core values of Energy, Environment and Entertainment. It’s an interesting fusion of engineering, technology, sport, science, design, music and entertainment – all combining to drive the change towards an electric future, making Monaco’s experience even more exciting.

Talking about what could Formula 1 improve, especially in Monaco, Michel notes that the communication could be much better on the issue of how new Formula 1 technology impacts the relevant auto industries, markets and, increasingly, even our daily lives.

Michel stresses: “Like other sports in the current business environment, motorsport is having to work harder and to refine its products to retain its current partners and to attract new investors. Our priority must be to engage the spectators and the viewers with a great entertainment experience and I am optimistic that we will achieve this here in Monaco”.

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