The future of a legendary race

Since the start of the Formula 1 World Championship in 1950, the Monaco Grand Prix has established itself as one of its most glamorous and famous races.

With roots dating back to 1929 and the early days of Grand Prix racing, the streets of the principality have long been Formula 1’s ultimate driving challenge. Off track, yachts and parties have made Monaco the place to be. must be seen.

But as the Formula 1 calendar expands to new markets, welcoming dazzling additions like Miami and, in 2023, Las Vegas, Monaco’s future is suddenly in doubt as its contract expires at the end of the year. Formula 1 is also contractually limited to 24 races per season, meaning some events are expected to make way for new ones.

“Monaco is definitely a crown jewel, it’s been around for a very long time,” McLaren Racing managing director Zak Brown said. “They have always had a very favorable trade agreement.

“What Formula 1 is looking to do is bring them more online, [to] understand and respect what they bring to the table, but also get caught up in the business realities of Formula 1 today.

Traditionally, Monaco has paid Formula 1 a minimal hosting fee, around $15 million, largely due to its history and status. These costs can reach 60 million dollars a year, which Saudi Arabia pays.

Accommodation fees provide Formula 1 with revenue which is then paid out to teams in the form of prize money, helping to fund their racing operations.

Formula 1 and the race promoters are still negotiating his contract. Michel Boeri, president of the Automobile Club de Monaco, denied last month that the accommodation fee demanded by Formula One owner Liberty Media Corporation was too high for Monaco to retain the Grand Prix.

“That’s wrong,” Boeri said. “We are still in talks with them and now have to agree on a contract. I can guarantee you that the Grand Prix will continue to take place beyond 2022.”

The consensus of the teams is that history alone is not enough of an argument for hosting fees to be so low, especially when new races and new markets, such as South Africa or Asia, are showing interest in joining the Formula 1 calendar and can offer a considerable offer. are.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said a new circuit offering the same money as Monaco would “never be accepted into the calendar”.

“We welcome Monaco because of its heritage and because of its history, that’s all,” said Horner. “And I think you have to evolve. If you stand still, you recoil, and I think that applies to all aspects of the sport.

The success of the inaugural Miami Grand Prix this month was a sign of what new Formula 1 events could look like, such as providing entertainment throughout the weekend with concerts.

It’s not just the new tracks that focus on the larger event. Although a traditional racing circuit built in 1948, Zandvoort in the Netherlands returned to the calendar last year to huge acclaim due to its off-track festivities and electric atmosphere.

Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur said Zandvoort marked a “big change” for Formula 1. -he declares. “It’s not just the show, but everything else around the Grand Prix. And I think Monaco will have to do the same.

The race in Monaco has also come under scrutiny. The track has remained virtually unchanged for the past 50 years, but Formula 1 cars have evolved significantly over that time. The current generation of cars are wider and heavier than ever, making it difficult to pass through narrow streets. This often leads to boring races.

“I can’t deny that the race is definitely not as exciting as some others,” said AlphaTauri rider Pierre Gasly of France. “Rising from 1.8 meters wide [about six feet] cars at two meters, it clearly did not help, because you increase by 40 centimeters when you are side by side.

Formula 1 said last year it would assess what changes, if any, could be made to the Monaco track to improve racing. But with the existing buildings and infrastructure, making changes would be difficult, if not impossible. “I’m not sure they want to move buildings and things like that,” Gasly said.

Still, the track has its challenges as there is no room for driver error. Last year, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc found out when he crashed at the end of qualifying and damaged his car so badly he couldn’t take part in the race.

“Monaco is the ultimate challenge to have a street circuit where we go so fast,” said Leclerc. “There’s no time to think because there’s no straight line, basically. Of course, for overtaking, it might not be the most exciting track of the season. But I think as a driver it’s extremely important to keep it on the schedule.”

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of England said that although “the race itself is not that spectacular”, Monaco still has “that iconic status” to please fans and drivers alike. “Everyone who goes enjoys it,” he said. “The story he has is so appealing to the drivers, but also I think to those watching.”

Leclerc said the race was “part of the myth of Formula 1”, but acknowledged its bias. He grew up in Monaco.

“I drive on the roads I used to bus to school when I was a kid,” he said. “So there is also an emotional attachment to that. It would be nice to stay there. »

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