For almost as long as the Monaco Grand Prix has appeared on the Formula One calendar, a question has hovered over it. At first it was a whispered concern, quickly dismissed as a foolish sentiment, but the volume grows louder ever year; has Formula One outgrown Monaco?
For many years, a race around the streets of Monaco has soon developed into a high-speed procession around a playground for the privileged; a rapid tour of the glitz and glamour that Monaco can provide to those fortunate enough to afford it.
The race has a history, of course, one more colourful and lengthy than most, but is a sense of nostalgic sentimentality enough? In an era where the argument over sport or entertainment rages on, can either side justify Monaco’s place on the F1 calendar?
There’s the matter of safety also; a twitch of the wheel here, a snatch of the brake there and the solid trackside furniture will be there to greet you without question – just ask Felipe Massa.
In a time long since over, the demand was for daredevil drivers to snake their exotic racing machines around the most serpentine track of them all; to see a driver tame his car, and indeed, the track, was thrill enough. Now however, fans demand more. In particular, more overtaking; nothing is more thrilling than a wheel-to-wheel battle between the greatest drivers in the world. So why, in an age where the utmost effort is aimed at increasing the amount of overtaking manoeuvres – through DRS, KERS and super-degradable tyres – does the F1 circus still insist on visiting Monaco year after year?
The money will doubtless be a factor; the funds Monaco brings to F1 – and vice versa – must be pennies shy of astronomical. And that, sadly, will play a bigger part than the wants and needs of any fan.
Ultimately – and this is a positive – Monaco is different. If Formula One operates on another planet to most of us, then Monaco is more alien still; even the regular F1 fraternity members seem in awe of Monaco’s dizzying way of life. And the fact that the track is different to all others can perhaps be welcomed too, for variety is the spice of life and Monaco certainly tends to spice things up. Whether from a grandstand or your own armchair there’s no doubt that you’re watching Monaco; the rare chance to see a Formula One car bump and weave along public roads would perhaps be missed if Monaco were to be crossed off the calendar.
And these Formula One drivers should be given a proper test every so often, I suppose.