There’s no doubt about it, the most glamorous event on the Formula One calendar is the Monaco Grand Prix. Ask any Grand Prix driver which race they would like to win and, aside from their home event, they will say Monaco. It was widely regarded as one of motorsport’s crown jewels, along with the Indianapolis 500 and Le Mans 24 Hours.
Overtaking is notoriously difficult around the streets of the principality, but there have been no shortage of classic Monaco Grands Prix over the years.
Nigel Mansell’s titanic battle with Aryton Senna in 1992; the 1996 event in which only four cars finished and Lewis Hamilton’s brush with the barriers on his way to victory in 2008 have been just some of the most memorable Monte Carlo spectacles in recent times.
This year, for the first time in many years, the Monaco Grand Prix will not be available live on terrestrial television.
So what better time for UK F1 fans who have always dreamed of going to the sport’s blue-ribbon event to make the trip and witness the greatest drivers tame the streets at 170 miles per hour.
Following on from my all-you-need-to-know guide to attending the British Grand Prix, in the first edition of my F1 traveller’s guide, Anthony French, who went to the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix shares his experience and provides his hints and tips for fans thinking of going to Monte Carlo for the race.
“Our travel arrangements were made by myself and those accompanying me, rather than with travel firm who specialise in F1 holidays.
“We included Monaco as part of a longer holiday and had driven down to Nice from the UK.
“Unless you can easily afford to be in Monaco for the weekend I would seriously recommend using either a specialist motorsport tour operator or planning the event as part of a longer stay.
“I’d recommend booking the following Monday off work! Trying to get back to the UK for Monday is very difficult and would not be advised.”
Arriving at the circuit
“I was lucky enough to be staying at a Villa located just north of Nice and it was relatively easy to drive to the railway station at Eze, a hamlet located between Nice and Monaco.
“The train ride was approximately 15-20 minutes so it is not too difficult to endure if it happens to be crowded on race day.
“The train ticket (return) costs are reasonable, although they have increased on 2006 prices when I last visited. It is advisable to pre-book tickets if possible either online or in person at Nice central station. Automated machines at the unmanned station are unpredictable and unreliable!
“For the ultra-wealthy there is the ability to arrive by helicopter. I did this later in the week after the race when prices were cheaper.
“Once you arrive in Monaco it is simple enough to walk to the circuit from the station and there are always plenty of Police willing to help and signs are plentiful for key locations such as Rascasse, Portier etc.
Watching the action
“I sat opposite the pits in 2006 just after the swimming pool and this is the best place to be located for pit lane action.
“The raised pits are at eye level and easily viewable – probably the best way to see pit stops in the world without being in the pit lane, although it is difficult to see the cars for any length of time as they are only in view for 2 seconds at the most .
“Standing is not recommended as there are very few of these areas available at Monaco, plus the rather warm local weather can make it an ordeal!
“For those wanting some fan ‘atmosphere’, the hill above the circuit is excellent.
“There is a legendary McLaren fan who sits there every year with a megaphone haranguing the crowd and drivers before the start of the race – not for the faint-hearted because a slip from there could prove painful, but you can see half the circuit from that viewing point.
“Considering the severe lack of space at Monte Carlo, the authorities do very well to keep order and avoid confusion.
“After the 2006 race we were shepherded back to the railway station by police who held the crowd in a road tunnel outside the entrance to avoid crushing in the underground station.
“Queuing for trains can take up to two hours but at least you are out of the often ferocious sun.
“Thanks to the number of people leaving the track it is virtually impossible to stop for anything to eat or drink on the way back through the streets, although if you are willing to hang back for an hour or two you could very easily make an evening of it.
“Toilet and washing facilities are difficult to come by and limited purely down to lack of space – I only noticed three portaloos during the nine hours I was at the circuit.”
“My advice would be to plan ahead for travel; ensure an early arrival at the track and pack plenty of sun protection and be prepared for large crowds almost everywhere!
“Also be advised that roaming the circuit is not practical on race day.”
Have you been to the Monaco Grand Prix? If so, please share your experience with any hints and tips you may have for fans thinking of going for the first time.