It is one of the biggest events in motorsport in the world: the Monaco Grand Prix. In the history of Formula One, the Monaco Grand Prix has an important role. What are the origins of the Grand Prix?
The Monaco Grand Prix is one of many European races that date back to the time when there was not yet a Formula One World Championship. When the Monaco Grand Prix was first held, Formula One in its current form did not even exist.
Beginnings of the Grand Prix
The first Monaco Grand Prix was held on April 14, 1929: Antony Noghès, a Monegasque, gave the impetus to hold a car race in the streets of Monaco. Prince Louis II of Monaco, who was president of the Automobile Club de Monaco, supported Antony Noghès and his idea of a car race in Monaco. Besides Prince Louis II, the Monegasque racing driver Louis Chiron supported the idea of a Grand Prix in his homeland.
But before the Monaco Grand Prix could be held for the first time, several obstacles had to be dealt with first.
In 1928, Antony Noghès applied to the AIACR, a predecessor of the FIA, to be allowed to stage a race in Monaco that was internationally recognized by the AIACR. But this application initially failed: the justification was, among other things, that the race track ran through numerous other European countries. Monaco’s road network was not yet sufficiently developed to accommodate a race track.
Noghès obtained permission from the Prince to expand the road network according to the AIACR’s conditions and to make all the preparations for a Grand Prix circuit. Thus, nothing stood in the way of a Grand Prix in Monaco.
First Monaco Grand Prix
At that time, Alfa Romeo and Maserati were among the leading constructors in motor sports: however, the top drivers of both constructors doubted that Monaco was suitable as a race track and did not participate in the first Monaco Grand Prix.
The Monaco Grand Prix on April 14, 1929, was run over 4 hours with 15 drivers: Races of this length were not uncommon at the time.
In the following years, the Monaco Grand Prix continued to develop: many drivers understood the circuit as an opportunity to demonstrate their skills. The track in Monaco demanded greater skill from a Grand Prix driver than other tracks.
In 1939, all Grand Prix races were cancelled. It took until after the Second World War before a Grand Prix was to be held again. The Monaco Grand Prix initially took place only irregularly from 1945. In 1950, the World Motor Sport Championship was given the name Formula One. It was not until 1955 that the Monaco Grand Prix was held again on a regular basis.
The marriage of Grace Kelly to Prince Rainier III in 1956 ushered in a new era of prosperity for the Principality of Monaco. As a result, the Monaco Grand Prix also enjoyed increasing popularity: to this day, it has remained a tradition for the princely family to present the race trophies to the drivers and constructors at the end of the Grand Prix.
Monaco does not forgive mistakes
For a Formula One driver, winning the Monaco Grand Prix is still a special feeling to this day: The winding track, peppered with narrow sections, pushes even the most experienced Formula One driver to the limit. The Monaco Grand Prix circuit does not forgive any mistakes: any driving error, no matter how small, which on another circuit would only cost the driver a few tenths of a second, has devastating consequences in Monaco.
Added to this are the great differences in altitude on the track. The track runs through the streets of Monte Carlo and La Condamine, the central district of Monaco.
Traditional track layout
Hardly any changes have been made to the course since 1929: The long tunnel followed by a hairpin is a hallmark of the Monaco circuit. The swimming pool is also one of the landmarks of the street circuit.
At several points, the track passes directly by the port of Monaco – the spectator seats on a yacht in the port of Monaco are among the most coveted places.
Apartments in Monaco with views of the Grand Prix action are rented specifically over the Grand Prix weekend.
Briton Graham Hill won the Monaco Grand Prix five times in the sixties, which is why he was called the “King of Monaco” for a long time.
Ayrton Senna won the Monaco Grand Prix a total of six times, breaking Graham Hill’s record. Senna holds the record to this day.
Between 1984 and 1993, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost engaged in numerous overtaking maneuvers and tense battles for first place on the grid.
In 1988, Ayrton Senna collided with a wall on the 67th lap of the Monaco Grand Prix: his frustration was so great that he then rushed to his apartment in Monaco and relaxed for a while. Nevertheless, Senna described this race as a spiritual experience:
Almost as old as Formula One
The Monaco Grand Prix is almost as old as Formula One: Many motorsport enthusiasts associate unforgettable memories with the street circuit in Monaco. Every driver who once mastered the course also remembers it for the rest of his life. To this day, the circuit remains a great challenge for a Formula One driver: due to the low average speed of the street circuit, it is usually difficult to predict who will win the race. There have been many surprises at the Monaco Grand Prix…
Cover picture: View of Monaco from the plane, end of August 1957
Picture credit: ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Bildarchiv/Stiftung Luftbild Schweiz / Photographer: Friedli, Werner / LBS_H1-020694 / CC BY-SA 4.0