The best motor racing circuit in the Formula 1 world is set in the streets of Monte Carlo and La Condamine, wrapping around the harbour of the principality of Monaco—the playground of the rich and famous.
Most drivers regard it as the most difficult race of the year and it is no doubt a favourite for those lucky enough to visit the track and for the millions of viewers worldwide.
The original idea for the race came from Anthony Noghes, under the patronage of Prince Louis the second. Organised under the Automobile Club de Monaco (ACM), it was Anthony’s father who was the founding president of the ACM who gave it its first race. There was races from 1911, with the ACM holding a rally championship in Monte Carlo.
In 1928 the organisation wished to be upgraded from being a regional French membership to full national status. However, the lack of a major championship in Monaco led to the original application being refused.
The rally could not be considered due to its circuit taking place in other roads within other European countries. So this led to the creation of the first automobile Grand Prix on the streets of Monaco, which was initially an invitation-only event. This, of course, meant that it preceded the current World Championship.
The first Grand Prix Automobile de Monaco was an invitation only event, but the foremost Maserati and Alfa Romeo (two of the dominant constructors of the time) drivers decided not to compete.
Mercedes sent one of their pre-eminent racers, Rudolf Caracciola, to race, but he came second to William Grover Williams driving a Bugatti, which was painted dark green and would become synonymous with the famous British racing green.
The race grew in prestige as the years passed. Due to the number of races in the global circuit that were termed “Grands Prix”, the governing body at the time, the AIACR, acclaimed the most dominant race of each affiliated national club as an Grandes Epreuves or International Grand Prix.
By 1933, it was regarded as a race as important as its Italian and Spanish counterparts. The race became officially part of the European Championship in 1936, until the World Wars ended organised motor racing until 1945.
When racing in the grand continent was re-born, the FIA, the successor to the AIACR, defined a new premier racing class, the Formula One. It was based on the pre-war Voiturette class. In 1950 it was included in the inaugural season, but in 1955 it officially became a permanent fixture on the World Championship calendar.
It is now regarded as the most significant and prestigious automobile race on the annual racing calendar. Many regard that, with the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 hours of Le Mans, the Grand Prix de Monaco form the ''Holy Grail'' or ''Triple Crown'' of motorsport.
Ayrton Senna has won the race six times, as well as winning the race consecutively between the years of 1989 and 1993. Graham Hill was regarded by the locals as ''Mr Monaco'', and won five times in the 60s. He is also the only man to win the “Triple Crown”. German legend Michael Schumacher also won five times at the legendary track.
The building of the circuit takes nearly two months and is no doubt the most demanding race track on the calendar—it contains the slowest corner in Formula 1 (the Grand Hotel hairpin) and one of the fastest (the flat kink in the tunnel) which defines what a brilliant and demanding race it is.
As Nelson Piquet once famously said, it is similar to “flying a helicopter around your living room”. It is the one race of the year which even non-Formula 1 racing fans tune in to watch.
May the great race at the greatest track continue forever—for surely by modern safety standards it is a dangerous and fearful race which would not be approved under current regulations.
Viva la Monaco!