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Formula 1
Lewis Hamilton racing in the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton racing during the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix, with the backdrop of the Côte d'Azur

Monaco Grand Prix: The stars hangout at motor sports greatest race

When any young boy with ambitions of becoming a professional racing driver speaks about his dream career, the one track or race they will almost inevitably mention is the Monaco Grand Prix.  Whether they end up racing stock cars, indy cars, endurance races or multi million pound speed machines, their original ambition would have been to stand atop the podium looking down on the Monte Carlo harbour.  

Of all the 69 race tracks that have staged a grand prix race in the World Championship’s 63 year history, none have even come close to the glamorous circuit next to the French Riviera. Since its debut race in 1929, Monaco has become the bi-word for the luxury, splendour and overt indulgence that Formula One exudes over all other motor racing disciplines.

Of course, you could have the greatest setting in the world but it means nothing if the actual racing or the course itself isn’t up to scratch. Either by design or luck, the Monaco Grand Prix is not only a visual delight but also both the biggest challenge and the greatest joy for drivers lucky enough to compete in it.  All of these factors have made this annual race one of the three biggest achievements in motor racing. Only the Indianapolis 500 and Le Mans 24 hour race are able to match it.

The list of winners of the sport’s most prestigious race ever since William Grover-Williams crossed the line first in his Bugatti in 1929, is like a roll of honour of legendary champions across history. Moss, Fangio, Brabham, Stewart, Lauda, Hakkinen, Alonso and Vettel have all won at the most prestigious race in the sport. Nelson Piquet is the only multiple world champion not to win in Monte Carlo. Yet for all the legendary names that have won here, what makes Monaco special is that because of its unique track, it is a great leveller of the field. This is what makes it paradise for pure drivers.

Mark Webber and David Coulthard in recent times and Jody Scheckter in the 70’s have all had their best results here. For Webber this holds a more pertinent place in his heart as it is the one track where he has consistently outperformed his more famous and successful rival. Such is the drive to succeed at Monaco that it was highly suggested that one of the key reasons why Williams signed Venezuelan driver Pastor Maldonado was his perceived love of the Monaco circuit.

Many drivers have enjoyed great success but for Monaco there are four names which are synonymous. In the early stages of the F1 Championship, British legend Graham Hill was the supreme master winning the race five times in the 60’s earning the nickname “King of Monaco”. Michael Schumacher’s continued dominance of the sport for a decade easily transferred to the streets of Monaco equalling Hill’s record of five race wins.  But for sheer drama and excitement, nothing could ever match the thrilling rivalry in the 80’s between Alain Prost and the true king of Monaco, Ayrton Senna.

Between them they won 10 straight races with Senna coming out on top six to four.  Senna further broke the record for consecutive wins with five culminating in one of the greatest finishes to a race in history in 1993. This time it was Nigel Mansell challenging Senna’s crown. For four laps, the pair duelled on every corner with the moustached Brit in the much faster car but Senna refused to be passed and held on for the win that made him the greatest legend in Monaco’s illustrious history.

Nobody has and probably will ever reach the levels of popularity that Senna had with the local populace but because Monaco is so special for everyone that has an invested effort in the sport, its popularity with the motor racing fraternity will never fade.