Other questions about Monaco

The Monaco Grand Prix is an annual event for those who are famous for being famous, rather than for having any discernible talent apart from self-promotion. The paddock had its fair share of such folk this year, with the grid being packed with people who could not tell you with any certainty whether the cars were front- or rear-engined. The city retains some of its former magic, although the Monaco police force do their best to make you hate it, with nonsensical one way systems that are there simply because they are there. All weekend we were diverted from the usual route into the circuit, leaving our usual road completely empty and unused and then had to go through a series of junctions and roundabouts that simply created a traffic jam where none was necessary. On Thursday the traffic was so bad as a result of this stupidity that the tailback went several miles into France. There is constant work going on in Monaco as the path of the old railway line is gradually filled in with new buildings and road networks that are hidden from view underground. They are brilliant if you know where to go and no policemen are involved. On Friday night I went out to dinner on the Italian end of Monte Carlo (Portier) and was dreading the drive back to France, as I knew that the centre would be a mess of traffic. In fact I found the entrance to the tunnel network and was able to drive the entire length of the place in just two minutes, popping out where I wanted to be and cruising home to Beaulieu along the Bas Corniche.

While I absolutely adore the Monaco weekend, with all of its minor annoyances, I felt this year that there really is a need to take another look at the track layout. The overtaking aids that have been introduced this year had almost no effect and we saw none of the passing that has typified the other races this year. The race is still a wonderful spectacle and shows the greatest drivers in their element, but when the best cannot overtake one has to ask questions. The other thing was the accidents. There were four nasty incidents on the run down to the chicane from the tunnel exit, all of them caused by the bumps on the road. Tonio Liuzzi and Vitaly Petrov damaged their cars on Thursday and then on Saturday Nico Rosberg and Sergio Perez has similar accidents. Perez was unfortunate in that the trajectory of his car took him into the barrier broadside. It was similar accident to that which ended Karl Wendlinger’s F1 career back in 1994, although it must be said that since then the barrier design and positioning have changed enormously thanks to the efforts of the FIA Safety Department and the FIA Institute and their many advisors. They have found ways to allow a driver to survive such accidents, even if he still ends up in hospital with a concussion. So Perez’s escape was not a miracle, but rather something that has been carefully planned for. The safety systems worked well, with the barriers absorbing energy. the car doing the same and the cockpit foam and HANS all helping to make sure that the driver suffers as little sustained G-force as possible. Jenson Button had a similar crash at the same spot in 2003 and there were further improvements after that.

“The cars have improved dramatically in terms of safety since Karl Wendlinger’s accident and the circuit has improved,” Button told The Independent. “The barrier’s been moved back since my accident, so there have been improvements, but we need to find a solution because we all love racing here. It’s a very special circuit but there’s a couple of areas that we need to discuss and try and come up with a solution because we all think the same thing. We all want it to be safer there, so we can come here and really enjoy the racing. The chicane’s a tricky corner and it’s an area where it’s very difficult to do anything in terms of safety because it is what it is. It’s Monaco, a street circuit, but I still think we need to look further as to what we can do with the run-off.”

What can be done to reduce the risks and to improve the overtaking? The answer lies in changing the circuit but this is very difficult to achieve given the space available. A few years ago there was hope of a major revamp when Monaco was considering a land reclamation project around the Portier section of the Principality, where it was reckoned that around 60 acres of land could be added – in much the same was as happened on the western side of Monaco when the Fontvieille district was added, including a stadium and a heliport, in addition to parks and residences. This was an interesting plan and would have offered the chance to extend the circuit from Portier, the tight right-hand corner just before the tunnel, out onto the reclaimed land. This would have provided the opportunity for a section of straight leading to a tight corner of some kind to create an overtaking spot and then a return section of road that would join up with the current track in the tunnel, as a point at which the speed of the cars could be reduced enough to make the chicane area less dangerous.

The aim of this new section of land was to create new attractions for tourists, additional beaches, better facilities and developing more upscale residential property and improving port capacity. The project was axed because of opposition from the local community.

Here is an idea of what the area would have included.

It remains to be seen whether this sensible project will be revived, but if it is, there is potential to make massive changes to the circuit that would suit the 21st Century racing cars. I have sketched the kind of idea that might work, with a fast curve from Portiers to a tight hairpin by the sea (similar to Montreal) and then a run back along a promenade to a chicane (another possible overtaking place) which would mean slower speeds in the tunnel and at the chicane, which could become a kink again, as it used to be. Such a scheme would also allow for the Monagasques to build a new pit lane with semi-permanent garages in a parkland setting (as in Melbourne), with the buildings serving other purposes throughout the year. All this would only be possible if land was reclaimed, but it is an interesting thought nonetheless.

40 thoughts on “Other questions about Monaco

  1. I love Monaco but each year I think more and more that it should become some sort of special “Non Championship Round” given how divorced it has become over the past 30yrs from any actual racing. It is a heap of fun and would definately stand on it’s own as such.

  2. Just a note to point out your deliberate mistake – I am sure you meant HANS not KERS as being the safety aid that has improved driver protection?

  3. Hasn’t it been this way for the 30 years ? There was never any way to get pass, yet we all quote Senna and in a lesser way, Prost, as the “masters of Monaco” as if they had reached there some sort of racing pinnacle. There must be a reason, right ?

    This is a more of a museum than a circuit anyway, it’s a prestigious and pristine race, one that definites Formula 1, like Spa or Suzuka. I see absolutely no reason to change it.

  4. Hi Joe,
    Great posts as usual. I had to write a note about Briatore flaunting around the Monaco grid like he owned the place. Is it just me or is anyone else incensed by the way he is able to continue grid walking and paddock prowling after what he has done in the sport?? I realise he is a good friend of Bernies but surely he must have some shame in what he did?? Maybe not? I’m sure ING and other sponsors that were involved in the team at the time must feel the same way. Pat Symonds and the like are slowly making their way back into the sport after serving the time but Flav seems to have been granted immunity. Thats what it looks like from the outside looking in… One more note, I watched the race in Spain and he was interviewed by the tv and made some remarks about Webbers car, I had to switch off then..

  5. I would certainly miss Monaco if the gp was ever pulled. Overtaking is at a premium ( to put it mildly!) but I always saw it as a war of attrition rather than a charging circuit. It’s probably not what should envisioned for a safe sporting event but I do have to admit to watching who’d bin it in a wall and let the next runners through. Perhaps it’s my child of the 80s upbringing watching star wars and pilots careening down between metal cliffs and the pressure and speed leaving more casulaties against the walls than perhaps a traditional open race might encourage.

    I understand the argument that monte Carlo is irrelevant now and I do think it’d be great to institute a few changes, but I think there’s room on the calendar for many different racetracks. Some favor aero, some favor mechanical grip, some are car circuits, some are driver circuits. Surely the championship can afford to hold onto one circuit with history and where qualifying and holding your nerve against the barriers are the only way to win? More than one would probably be depressing but Monaco just feels like it’s earned a bit of a pass (sorry pun not intended originally).

  6. I drive at the old Monaco twice a year in various online simracing leagues, and I love that bump after the tunnel. That’s where I change to fifth and start to flat out via the chicane. (GPL 1967 version I am talking about).

    I’d bring back this old feeling and would clear the chicane, and a few trees — something like this: http://www.freeleo.hu/egyeb/monaco2012.gif

    Such a long “straight” from Portiers to Tabac would give overtaking/drs possibilities.

  7. I thought there was a good level of overtaking this year! Hamilton’s move on Schumacher, Rubens on Schumacher, Massa on Rosberg etc – all exciting moves. Admittedly Hamilton made a pigs ear of everything else he did and di Resta got a bit ahead of himself but the successful moves showed that it is possible. Anyway, the ‘impossibility’ of passing is part of what makes Monaco the race it is. Leave it alone is my opinion!

  8. I remember there was going to be a similar land reclamation project that was going to allow them to make the Swimming Pool a single chicane leading to a straight going all the way to Rascasse (which would become a 90-degree right-hander) to create overtaking, but this never happened.

  9. Hi Joe,

    That’s a fair point! Although we did have a number of retirements and a relatively mixed up grid due to both incidents in quali and the race. Though I perfectly understand this isn’t enough for most fans.

    I guess if the red flag tyre change hadn’t come we might have gotten to see what can happen with tyre strategy at Monaco these days.

    I think the circuit has earned it’s place still but I’m happy to state this may be a minority opinion now!

  10. That empty road was possibly an emergency route in the event of a major incident – grandstand collapse, bomb, etc. It may only have been decreed recently because of heightened concern about safety. There were terrible traffic jams into Dijon because one of the two roads into the circuit was closed to all but emergency vehicles (and happily for me, pass holders).

    1. Canehan,

      All true, but it never has been in the past, so why would it have become today? There are other routes just as before

  11. I would hate to see any radical changes to the Monaco race layout, it’s perfect the way it is (except for that bump at the end of the tunnel!). I know some minor changes have been made to the chicane and a few other areas but I think at the moment it’s spot on. There are a few overtaking places where the brave or the foolhardy can try a move and sometimes make it stick. I recall Alonso passing 4 or 5 cars coming out of the tunnel in a previous race but also Coulthard stuck at the back behind Bernoldi for most of the race (yet still finished in the top 6) so there can be some cracking races, it’s not a processional as some people make out. If the red flag hadn’t happened on Sunday then we would have had a thriller of a finish and it wouldn’t really have mattered if Alonso got past Vettel or not, the enjoyment comes from watching him try.
    DRS wasn’t as effective as in Turkey or Barcelona but still allowed Alonso to get on Vettel’s gearbox a few times and allowed a few other moves so I don’t think we need a new straight putting in just for DRS to be used to greater effect.

  12. On the landfill thing.

    Take a look how Hong Kong has changed. It gave up its natural cove/sweep, and assumed this blocky thing which you are only distracted from by the vast new towers. But the reason for early landfill from Causeway onwards – most all of what anyone alive knows of HK was landfill – was because their hills have a nasty tendency to landslide and kill people.

    I didn’t know, until the coverage this weekend, that Albert was to wed, thereby securing the treaty by which the principality exists. But please don’t put more ugly appendages into the waterfront without deep consideration. (for most of “classical” Monaco was built in a frenzy, when Rainier had to secure the Monagesque future, think Centrepoint).

    Nothing man can make ever resembles a coastline. Slartibartfast (Hitchhikers’) does not exist in reality. Heartfelt thought. Because it could be an improvement, including to the microclimate, if done right.

  13. I would agree with AuraF1’s first post, entirely. I think his point about different kinds of track is spot on in my opinion.

  14. Could these crashes have something to do with the blown diffuser? bump, less downforce, crash?
    It’s a bit odd that we suddenly see similar crashes in Monaco that we have not seen in years.

  15. Here’s a thought.

    For Monaco only, take the wings off the cars. No other aero changes allowed.


  16. Actually I think I saw more genuine overtakes at Monaco this year than any other year and had the last SC not come out, there would have undoubtedly been more. Some of this was down to tyres, some down to DRS some down to the use of KERS but some overtakes were just unbelievably ballsy and crafty driving by the best drivers we’ve ever seen lined up in a racing season. I never saw it but I’d like to see how HAMILTON got alongside MASSA going in to the tunnel….that must have taken some doing.

  17. Joe,

    Increased ‘elf and safety, I would guess.

    Re your planned new circuit, I think the Monaco authorities (and the TV) would like to retain the track section around the harbour, for the iconic/publicity value.

  18. At this time of year it is oftan mentioned that if Monaco were to apply for a race as a new circuit, they would hear the laughter all the way from Paris.

    This race will stay on the calender even if it becomes nothing more than a procession of cars on a track nullified by the health and safety culture.

    The teams will go where the money is, and the money men for the most part countn’t give a toss who wins anyway, just as long as they can be seen with the “right” people….

    Personally as a one off I don’t mind. I like watching this race as much as any other……but lets me frank, we cannot make this into a “racing ” circuit.!

    Monaco is Monaco, Silverstone is Silverstone….lets keep the variety.

  19. I have to say that although I agree with you Joe, I found myself enjoying Monaco this year a lot more that the preceding years. The build up to the final laps was very exciting and had it not been for Petrov’s accident I thin it would have been a nail bitting 8 laps with Vettel, Alonso and Button boing their best to come out on top, it’s sad that it didn’t come to be but it was a better race than in years past.

    I would like it if they managed to design changes to the track in order to create overtaking opportunities so that there is a potential for people to move up the grid without the need for an accident or a pit stop incident a la Red Bull this year….but frankly I can’t see that happening in the foreseeable future.

  20. Brilliant idea nuvolarifan – racing cars managed without wings and diffusers before and still created excitement and a tremendous spectacle at Monaco.

  21. Joe – great article as ever. The anticipation when VET/ALO/BUT charged up to the 7 slower cars at the hairpin was great. It’s a shame they all got into a panic into and out of the chicane as it was the catalyst for the mayhem in tabac and swimming pool. I can’t help thinking that lapping 7 cars was going to be more of a risk to all three of the leaders than the chance that VET’s tyres would hit the wall. Great race – though wish I’d had a fanvision as we had no idea about red bull and mclaren’s pit stop woes. That had to wait till we watched the BBC rerun back in Antibes.

  22. rather than landfill, how about a man made island? Ask the (British!) hydro engineer who did the Burj Al Arab.

    That’d be one-upmanship. Just put in a proper, non swingy bridge, and this could be a awesome upgrade! Heck, have the island section oval shaped . . i mean “ring road” ..

    – j

  23. Barry Jones,

    hmm, huge slicks and ground effects . . the latter combined with removing or standardising the wings, would remove a lot of regs which are expensive to design to . . .

  24. Keep it simple.

    -Remove Nouvelle Chicane creating one long straight out of the tunnel.
    -turn the area outside of the tunnel into the DRS zone.
    -Reprofile Tabac into a slower corner (*shudder*) for the “passing zone” with three layer TECPRO barriers each layer with increasing density and air space between for force dissipation. This would be the pseudo run off area. A less dense first layer would create less instantaneous deceleration ie. reducing G-force of impacts.
    -Move the lost grandstand to where Nouvelle Chicane used to be. Except make it a tall, temporary rotunda. That would be a really cool new type of temporary grandstand with very unique viewing. You could walk to different levels and directions throughout the weekend. Seeing everything from the tunnel exit to the new Tabac. I’m not familiar with the topography of the area, but if it continues to run downhill all the way to Rascasse and the rotunda was tall enough, the “penthouse” level might get line of sight until that point.

    There would be more thought involved than the ten minutes I just spent. But it would solve all the problems while only raising the new one of reprofiling Tabac. Whether that’s an engineering problem or one of heritage might render this idea useless. It’s definitely cheaper than making new land.

  25. I think it would be a great mistake to change a circuit that has been the “same” for more than 80 years. It is the last of the true circuits that has not been victim of politically correctness (yet).
    I believe all the pilots love this place as it is the ultimate track where there is no room for mistake(s) so, winning Monaco gives the driver a special aura of mysticism not found in newer tracks.
    Monaco is Monaco, with all the bad and good that comes with it.

    1. MiamiJAG,

      My point was that I think Monaco needs to change (if it can) because it is already an anachronism and needs to have more relevance in racing than simply being a sponsorship market.

  26. I think if you start messing with the set-up/layout of Monaco too much you lose the character of the track, I thought the whole weekend was absolutely brilliant (apart from the accidents caused by bump and the stupid red flag tyre change rule). There was plenty of excitement from close battles and there was a lot more overtaking than usual. For me just seeing the talent of the guys flicking the cars through the streets is magical. Personally I don’t see it as broke so why fix it!! (apart from the bump after the tunnel).

  27. I was once whistled and shouted at my a Monegasque Policeman for not pulling away from the lights within 0.1 seconds of the lights changing. The hesitation resulted from not being sure whether the entrance was to a car park or someones garage.

    As for F1, I’d say its more of an exhibition (or advertising) than a race these days; the cars are just too wide and too fast. Nevertheless, watching the Alonsos/Hamiltons/Kubicas during qualifying is still exhilarating, even from a sofa.

  28. I completely disagree that Monaco is nothing more than a sponsorship market. I agree that it is an anachronism, but with that it brings a unique challenge that no other circuit brings. Often there is the point that Monaco can be processional, but this year was not at all. The (different) challenge that Monaco brings is the only real opportunity a fan gets to really see and appreciate the raw talent of the drivers, I wouldn’t change it or get rid of it for the world!

  29. Joe,

    I hear you loud and clear about GP du Roc!

    In a cultured, mellifluous, Russian – English accent 🙂

    I confess to being fascinated by what possibilities exist if we brougth F1 back to its roots, europe and america, and put half as much effort into that as all these white elephant tracks in despotic deserts. F1 was always tinted with fantasy. Disney, he of Alibaba And The Forty Copyright Theives, go eat crow! (and remember now, a generation has grown up, often isolated, trapped, in their unsullied by real world pubescant imaginations, with computer games of fantastic creation – make the reality better is the answer*)

    All comes down to the fact that in my dreams, buying FOA is not where it falls down, but finding the money for really what is in my dreams, and then not demanding a fan’s first born as security for the ticket . . why can grown men not play?

    grinning ear to ear, thank you for the reference!

    – john

    *virtual worlds have been proven to heal much faster the injured by immersion during treatment, requiring less morphine. that is how much our fantasy minds matter. capture it, for daily life.

  30. Jakub,

    oooh, stories . .

    No. But it’s amazing how wonderfully run is a place which was once on the edge of bankruptcy and harbour to somewhat, err, sophisticated elements..

    Set a . . . . dear me, there’s a film of that, and she married Rainier.

    I consider it a part of Monaco’s charm, but i prefer Lugano.

    Hi from me,

    – j

  31. Joe,
    You will know Monaco (and it’s boundaries) better than me, but last time I visited I thought a good extension would be to turn left (away from the tunnel) and along the road just under the flyover (is it avenue grace Kelly)? It looked to me like there were two roads running to and from tunnel)? My memory might be failing me though?

  32. Personally, I think Monaco has more relevance than most of the modern GP circuits. It is racing cars racing on a true street circuit. Valencia is not a street circuit. Singapore is not a street circuit. Montreal is not a street circuit.

    If there is a track where there are “specialists”, then it has relevance. I loved it when you would see cars go to Hockenheim and Monza with trimmed out wings, then show up in Monaco with a huge plow of a wing on the front, steep rear wing and things all over the car to push it down.

    Tracks should be different. There should be street circuits that are challenging to drive well. There should be racing circuits that provide good passing. There should be fast circuits that are a technical challenge. Moving all circuits toward cookie-cutter tracks will do nothing to separate F1 from any other series.

    The only change, if any, to Monaco’s chicane should be a resurfacing of the circuit to remove the bump (I don’t even think they should do that), and perhaps consider a temporary gravel-trap or some other type of high-friction material that would slow down a chassis that is sliding along the ground toward the barriers.

    The circuit shouldn’t be emasculated/castrated to bring it up to “modern standards”.

    PS. Not sure if any of my prior comments inspired you to make the braking zone to your hairpin a curve, but I like it anyway! I think it could provide a good passing opportunity… but I wouldn’t want to see Monaco change solely to boost overtaking.

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