Honda website
Honda website

MAY 13, 1996

Where are we going this week?

IT is ironic that Monaco is the race on which much of Formula 1's glamorous image is founded and yet it is the race which the F1 circus enjoys the least. Working conditions are dreadful, the pitlane is dangerous and the track allows almost no overtaking for modern F1 cars. This means that qualifying is vital and races tend to be rather dull processions after a traditional first corner melee.

For the drivers this is frustrating, but many still feel that Monaco is the greatest challenge a driver faces and a place where driving talent can be more important than car performance. This is borne out by the fact that since 1984 only three drivers have won the race: Alain Prost (1984-85-86-88), Ayrton Senna (1987-89-90-91-92-93) and Michael Schumacher (1994-95). Damon Hill will want to stop Schumacher's run as winning Monaco is something of a family tradition as Damon's father Graham won the race five times (1963-64-65-68-69) and was known as "Mr. Monaco".

The Monaco race was dreamed up in 1929 by a Monaco-based cigarette manufacturer, Antony Noghes. He was president of the Automobile Club of Monaco and a friend of Monaco's Prince Louis II and so the formalities of organizing the race were quickly sorted out, the pair agreeing that a Grand Prix could only enhance Monaco's international glittering image, founded on the success of the famous casino. The first event took place in April 1929, on a spectacular track which ran from the harbor area of town called La Condamine up the hill into Monte Carlo, around Casino Square, downhill to the station and then back to the waterfront through a tunnel around the headland. The road then chased around the harbor under the famous Grimaldi Palace. The track is essentially the same design as in those days, although the Swimming Pool section in the harbor was added in 1973.

Monaco very quickly established itself as a classic racing event, aided by some mighty performances from the likes of first winner "Williams" who beat Rudi Caracciola's 7-liter Mercedes in a tiny Bugatti 35B; and by Achille Varzi and Tazio Nuvolari who fought their most famous duel in 1933, racing wheel to wheel for 99 of the 100 lap race.

Ever since, Monaco has been the main attraction of the F1 calendar; the race which the rich and famous want to see - and at which they want to be seen. Today it coincides with the Cannes Film Festival, so famous faces are guaranteed.