Why Hamilton and Alonso are wrong about Monaco

At face value, the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix was not one that will live long in the memory. Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton branded the event “the dullest race ever” and “not racing” respectively. Hamilton going a step further by suggesting a change of format or even the circuit itself was required for F1s most iconic race.

Both were right in their assessment of Sunday’s race as a fairly dull affair. Certainly the casual F1 fan – drawn to Monaco simply because it is the most glamorous embodiment of motorsport excess and extremes – would have found it a complete snooze.

Committed fans, by contrast, found much to be excited about at the weekend. Why? Because theirs is a passion and appreciation for the race that runs much deeper than statistics on overtakes. As one of them, I would go as far as to say both Alonso and Hamilton are wrong.

Does Monaco need to change?

True fans of F1 do not watch Monaco for the guarantee of a thrilling race or overtaking galore. They do not watch or attend in expectation of seeing the leading drivers dice for the lead, lap after lap.

Monaco is appointment viewing (and a bucket list trip) because it is Monaco. It is the history, the glitz, the insanity of putting 1000bhp monsters amongst metal barriers and on roads barely wide enough for road cars. It is the legends of Fangio, Hill (both of them), Clark, Stewart, Senna and Schumacher.

Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing at the new chicane in the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix.
Monaco: barriers, kerbs, narrow streets and 1000bhp. (Image: Mobil 1 The Grid)

Monaco is marvelling at the precision of the drivers, lap after lap after lap. The extremes of the track as barriers, humps, kerbs, a tunnel and the balls out entry to the swimming pool chicane come at each driver, relentlessly. We watch every year in the hope that we might witness another battle like Senna v Mansell in 1992 or a fairytale result akin to Olivier Panis in 1996. Of course knowing full well that such races are rarities in the cramped, millionaires playground of Monte-Carlo.

Cresting Massinet in 5th gear versus another 90 degree Tilke turn

The danger inherent in racing there is part of what separates F1 drivers from the rest of the population. It is what makes them heroic figures worthy of praise. Adulation is theirs because of their precision, bravery and skill lap after lap after lap. Without it, F1 is left with sanitised race tracks and drivers who take far fewer risks than their illustrious predecessors.

Taking Hamilton’s suggestion, the creation of an ‘improvements’ list for Monaco would be as long as the circuit itself. For starters, the track is too narrow – especially with F1’s wider cars introduced last year – and zero run-off means drivers have to gamble big when attempting any pass.

The first corner at St Devote is a follow-the-leader joke as is the ridiculous Mirabeau to Portier complex, via the old Loews hairpin. And all of this is before we even start to consider the cramped pits area that would not be acceptable to even lower-level racing championships, never mind the pinnacle of the sport.

Monaco: so right because it is so wrong

In short, there is so much wrong with Monaco, so much that is incompatible with F1 that even attempting to make changes would be fruitless. And doing so would run the risk of losing the character and appeal that makes it the blue riband event of the season.

F1 has lost too much of its history already with teams going bust, tracks falling off the calendar and others a shadow of their former, formidable glories. Monaco is everything all the other circuits on the F1 calendar are not and that is what makes it such a draw.

Changing it or diluting it for the sake of manufacturing more ‘entertainment’ would be one step too far. In terms of safety and the drive to expand F1 into new territories.

Does Monaco need to change for F1? Absolutely not.

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