How Monaco Grand Prix Looks Before and After Formula 1 Arrives
Watching the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix on our TVs, we see the most spectacular, glamorous event in the sporting world.
Beautiful yachts line the harbour walls, the world's finest racing machines speed past magnificent architecture and celebrities flock to be seen hanging around the paddock on race day.
One could be forgiven for thinking Monaco was always like this.
Even when F1 departs, the Principality remains a special place and the supercar count is indeed very high. But looking at the route of the Circuit de Monaco during the off-season, it's fascinating to see how relatively normal it is.
Here's a look at the real Monaco.
This could be a street in any city in the world, but when F1 comes to town, this very normal piece of tarmac is transformed into the Circuit de Monaco's pit straight.
A fire engine is making its way down towards the first corner, and on the right of the shot are lines of parked cars. Beyond them lie a string of businesses, including more than one private bank, and the balconies which become prime viewing spots at the start of each race.
The pit lane is just off the left-hand side of the photograph, on the other side of the trees.
St. Devote and Beau Rivage
Here we see a Monaco Police Ford C-Max negotiating the first corner, St. Devote. Only it isn't St. Devote—it's a roundabout.
Behind the Ford is a line of cars coming down the hill. When F1 is around, the cars would be climbing up the hill through Beau Rivage and into Massanet.
The cars would come steaming through the bollards on the right and turn up the hill. The apex of St. Devote would be where the roundabout (which is removed every year then put back afterwards, as are the bollards) is.
In the picture, the pit lane exit is being used by the blue car on the right.
And on the roundabout is a statue of William Grover-Williams at the wheel of his Bugatti Type 35, which he used to win the first-ever Monaco Grand Prix, all the way back in 1929.
A better view of the statue can be found here.
The Monte Carlo Casino is one of the most well-known landmarks in the Principality.
Here it is seen during the day in 2005, with tourists wandering by where the Armco barriers would be and cars parked in front on what becomes the racing line.
This image (larger size) shows us the more "normal" side of Monaco—Ferraris and Lamborghinis are relatively common, but everyday cars still dominate. The priciest vehicle on display is probably the silver Porsche or perhaps the large white car parked beside it.
To the top right of the image is the exit of Turn 3 (Massanet). The cars would be heading towards the photographer.
The kerbing of Turn 4 (Casino Square) has been left in place and provides a handy reference point for where they'd go next.
Taken from the outside of Turn 5 (Mirabeau Haute), this photograph really demonstrates the gradient as the cars head down to the hairpin.
Two road-going cars are making their way around the section. Close to the hairpin is a taxi rank, and on the lower stretch is a bus stop.
The picture also shows the rather barbaric punishment waiting for normal motorists if they run wide here—a line of wheel-destroying concrete blocks between road and pavement.
Fairmont Hotel Hairpin
What is now known as the Fairmont Hotel Hairpin (and formerly Station, Leows or Grand Hotel) is one of the few corners on the calendar that F1 cars go around almost as slowly as a road car.
A product of Ferrari's parent company, Fiat, is going around the outside, while a Volvo is heading in the wrong direction.
The kerbing is left on the inside, and we can see where the F1 cars drive over it.
But on the outside, the Armco barriers have been replaced with a throng of tourists.
The tunnel is Monaco's most famous feature and the most enclosed section on the F1 calendar.
When F1 is in town, the cars blast through here at full throttle, and even the V6 turbos will sound deafening in such a tightly confined space.
Maybe Ron Walker could stand here on Sunday.
It looks mostly the same on a normal day, but the F1-style metal barriers are gone and a pedestrian is walking down the narrow pavement on the inside.
You'd need a rather special ticket to do that during a race weekend.
This is where the cars emerge into the sunshine on a typical race day.
But on a typical Monaco day, it's a two-way street. Cars go into this end of the tunnel, too.
The building above the exit is the back of the Fairmont Hotel, which we last saw at the hairpin earlier in the lap. The Mediterranean is on the other side of the blue temporary sheeting.
Waterfront, Nouvelle Chicane, Tabac
This image (larger version) is an excellent example of just how much some parts of Monaco are altered for the race.
The tunnel exit is just around the curve in the road at the centre of the image, but the Nouvelle Chicane is simply gone. The yellow structure is where it should be.
The straight after the chicane is one of the few pieces of track at Monaco which isn't a functional road. Instead, the image shows it as a car park and (perhaps) a loading area for yacht owners.
On race weekends, the actual road is used for run-off.
At the bottom of the image is the Tabac corner, home to a few more parking spaces.
Also visible is the Beau Rivage section from earlier in the lap, going up the hill on the left.
The Swimming Pool chicane was added in the 1970s after the Rainier III Nautical Stadium was built. It seems a rather grand name for so humble a pool, but if you're going to divert the most famous race track in the world around something, maybe it needs a fancy title.
The driven-on road itself takes up only a small part of what becomes the race track, with most of the space given over to parking.
We also get a good look at Monaco's "normal" harbour, with rows of tiny boats alongside the more familiar "superyachts" we see on race weekends.
Swimming Pool Exit, Anthony Noghes and Pit Lane
This image (larger size) shows a lot of the end of the lap, as well as the large, reddish expanse of tarmac which acquires temporary garages and becomes the pit lane.
By Monaco standards, this whole waterfront area is a giant piece of empty space. The large structure by the water is a temporary grandstand in the process of being erected.
On the right of the picture, cars are parked on the racing line at Turn 17 as we approach the entry to Rascasse (Turn 18, just off camera to the right).
At the bottom of the picture is the pit lane entry and the final corner, the right-hand Anthony Noghes, with its kerbing on both the inside and outside still in place.
We also see the newly resurfaced pit straight, which leads down to the start-finish line and completes our lap of Monaco.
And we still haven't seen a supercar...
Here's another image of the swimming pool. The pit lane has been occupied by a temporary fairground, featuring a log flume which they really should keep for the podium ceremony.
The track beyond the swimming pool has been marked out by potted plants, and La Rascasse is visible in the distance.
And we've finally located some road-going Ferraris. They're just photo opportunity cars being run by the man in the tent next to them, but a Ferrari is a Ferrari.
Maybe they're more common at night...