few overtakings, often boring races… the Monaco Grand Prix remains legendary

According to some, watching the F1 Grand Prix in Monaco would be like watching a hamster pedaling in its cage. By pointing to the boredom caused by soothing races, are these despisers committing the crime of lèse majesté? Moreover, serene? The fact is that more and more people want to change the situation in the casino country, where on Sunday, May 29, the 79th Grand Prix draw takes place. The great Lewis Hamilton himself shook up the venerable establishment last season, declaring that “The format of Monaco absolutely needs to be changed so that there is more spectacle during the races.”

For a neutral observer, watching a race is often the equivalent of watching a passing train followed by about twenty cars. Spectators reduced to the rank of cows? Not far. In Monaco, overtaking is rare, very rare. The city track, its narrow streets inevitably lead to limited opportunities for overtaking. There is no Mulsanne right here, often you have to wait until the opponent’s mistake rolls down the mouse hole. What if the driver in front doesn’t make a mistake? And it scores well.

This has always been the case on the roads of the Principality, but in recent years this phenomenon has increased with the introduction of ever wider single-seat cars. Even less space for acceleration, even less ill-considered risks for pilots. Especially since the price of a wrecked F1 car, also constantly rising and now tied to an annual spending limit that cannot be exceeded, is more likely to encourage people to slow down when pursuing a possible attack.

Finally, here more than on any other track, the pole position has a clear advantage. Of the 68 Grands Prix contested, the fastest timer in qualifying has won 30 times, and you can often see a poleman going after a solo rider. But it’s more than a wild ride, it often feels like running down the slowest track of the season. Slowness, lack of spectacle, lack of suspense, so many stones in the building of those who want to topple the Rock. And yet, he remains motionless.

“Nothing compares to the splendor of Monaco”. In one sentence, Toto Wolf said it all. The boss of Mercedes, like everyone else, is still fascinated by Monaco with its unique glamor and atmosphere. By the weight of its history too. Appearing in 1929 under the auspices of Prince Louis II, he answered the challenge of creating a world-famous automobile competition in the second largest state in the world (after the Vatican).

A setting lush with splendor was planted, and the proximity of the place and time to the nearby Cannes Film Festival served as a focal point. The incessant arrivals of movie stars who jumped from the red carpet to the runway made Monaco a legend. Now the race is broadcast in more than 170 countries of the world, it is watched by almost a billion viewers, and celebrities of all stripes come to show off. It would be a lot if it was a simple hamster race, wouldn’t it?

Because the Monaco Grand Prix can be magical too. To understand this, don’t stop at the procession of cars that sometimes make the Sainte-Devote passage look like the Saint-Arnoux toll road. performance elsewhere. It is in the strategic dexterity of the teams that make the most of the smallest square meter of bitumen to win a few tenths that this atypical route has both the slowest turn (45 km/h) and the fastest (280 km/h). km/h) of all F1 tracks. But this is primarily in the art of piloting.

“Monaco is a track that distinguishes men from children” Damon Hill once said. The Briton is here referring to the qualifications necessary to be crowned king in a principality. Because it takes courage to hit the road without any visibility, avoid any obstacles and approach the safety rails that roll with the track at full speed. On this last point, the Scotsman David Coulthard makes a bold comparison: “The secret is to caress the rails without ever kissing them passionately.”

When the pilot succeeds, the magic becomes unreal. You have to see Ayrton Senna’s qualifying lap in 1988 at least once in your life. On that day, the Brazilian, a six-time winner here, defied death to take pole position, a second and a half clear of second, Alain. Simple! A completely unprecedented gap in F1, where places on the starting grid are generally played out for hundredths of a second. “I wasn’t driving, it was God”, limited himself to commenting on Senna in a trance after his feat. That’s why the Monaco Grand Prix remains legendary. And sometimes even mystical.

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