Monaco Grand Prix: The End of Special Treatment?
Monaco Grand Prix: a jewel in the F1 crown or an antiquated relic? Once celebrated for its distinctiveness and exceptional status, the prestigious event now grapples with evolving norms. As Ferrari-like privileges fade into the past, we delve into Monaco’s transformation and ponder whether the Grand Prix is losing its shine or simply refining it.
Formula 1 has traditionally viewed the Monaco Grand Prix similarly to how it views Ferrari: as an exceptional component of the spectacle that deserved exceptional consideration.
Just as Ferrari had the authority to reject regulation changes it didn’t agree with, the Monaco race enjoyed privileges other competitions could only aspire to.
Most notably, whereas other grand prix races relinquished control over the profitable trackside advertising to F1, Monaco managed its own.
In contrast to other race tracks where F1’s highest-paying sponsors occupy specific segments of the track with their brand, Monaco presents a blend of various names at each site.
However, this preferential treatment for Monaco is gradually becoming a relic of the past. There was a significant shift last year when the event forfeited its early start.
Earlier Monaco Grands Prix would commence with a practice on Thursday, followed by a break on Friday. But last year, the event conformed to the same schedule as the other 21 F1 races.
Although the change undoubtedly detracts from what made the event unique, it’s unlikely that the absence of a day off will be mourned. Some saw it as a nuisance, notably Michael Schumacher who, during the 1999 event, returned to Ferrari’s Fiorano test track to try out a backup chassis on the day off.
Monaco lost another one of its exclusive privileges this year, a change that won’t likely upset anyone apart from those working for Tele Monte Carlo.
F1 will now handle the responsibility of producing the global broadcast images, ending the days when viewers would bemoan the ‘Monaco TV director’ for failing to keep pace with the race action.
F1 acknowledged Tele Monte Carlo’s infamous 2021 error when it switched from a rare moment of side-by-side action featuring Sebastian Vettel and Pierre Gasly at Massenet, to an irrelevant replay of Lance Stroll.
Other local broadcasters had already given up their international broadcasting rights and the quality of F1’s coverage has since improved.
Those within the Monaco team feeling a sting of bruised ego should find comfort in the prospect of their event being portrayed much better this year.
The Monaco Grand Prix has somewhat earned a reputation for being uneventful, but with fewer genuinely intriguing moments being overlooked, this perception may well improve.
This year, Monaco will also align more closely with F1’s desired support race framework. For years, Renault-powered junior championships held a privileged spot in the schedule:
the Formula Renault 3.5 series, once a rival to GP2 (now F2), served as the Sunday morning prelude to the grand prix. After that series ended, the more junior Eurocup took over, but it has also concluded, making way for the return of F3 alongside F2.
Same structure, same support races, same television director: The Monaco Grand Prix is increasingly resembling any other European round of the world championship. However, one other significant distinction still exists, and it too is due for reconsideration.
Monaco’s grand prix is shorter than every other round of the world championship. This is outlined in the sporting regulations, along with its unique podium ceremony, which state:
“the distance of the race in Monaco shall be equal to the least number of complete laps which exceed a distance of 260km” instead of the standard 305km.
This rule is a leftover from the time when average speeds around Monaco were so slow that accommodating a full-length race within the two-hour time limit was challenging. However, as cars have gotten faster and parts of the track have been modified, this is much less of a worry.
In the last dry grand prix in 2021, all 78 laps were completed in less than 99 minutes, leaving plenty of time to run another 13 laps which would bring the race up to the same distance as the others.
There’s no longer any justification for Monaco’s race to be shorter than the rest. Both from a business and sporting perspective, it makes sense to align it with the standard length.
Sponsors would likely welcome an additional 15-20 minutes of visibility at F1’s most iconic event. A longer race would allow for more tyre wear, increasing driver fatigue and the potential for errors.
This was evident at the end of last year’s shortened race, where winner Sergio Perez was experiencing tyre problems and had multiple cars hot on his tail when the race ended earlier than usual due to F1’s controversial red flag regulations.
As F1’s popularity has surged under the stewardship of Liberty Media, the significance of Monaco in the grand scheme of things has decreased.
Those managing the series have gained concessions which have increasingly made this marquee race resemble the rest of the calendar. There have been beneficial changes as a result, and more might be on the way.
However, what sets Monaco apart as a sporting event is the unique challenge presented by the circuit.
Despite some modifications over the years, no other F1 street track is as unforgivingly narrow or rewards precision like Monaco does.
In a season dominated by one team, it’s no surprise that some of their competitors are eyeing this grand prix as a potential opportunity for victory.
Indeed, this historical race needed some modifications and arguably still does. However, not everything must evolve.
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