F1 GP: everything you need to know about Monaco
What Monaco's like to watch?
Situated half an hour from the city of Nice, the Monte-Carlo circuit boasts a vast F1 history and held its first race in 1929. Based around the streets of the Principality, the circuit has remained largely the same since its original conception.
The proximity of the barriers and the relentless nature of the 3.337-kilometre track means that racing is close and overtaking incredibly difficult. That's not to say that there haven't been some memorable races over the years.
Probably the craziest was 1982: known as the race that nobody wanted to win. Riccardo Patrese claimed his first career victory for Brabham: one of just 10 finishers. Perhaps the most nail-biting race in the history of the event came in 1992 when, having had to pit for new tyres close to the end, Williams driver Nigel Mansell spent the remaining laps of the race desperately trying to find a way past the slower McLaren of Ayrton Senna. The Brazilian triple world champion made his car as wide as possible to claim an unlikely victory.
Accidents and reliability issues have also been a common thread in the history of the Monaco Grand Prix, with just four cars reaching the finish of the 1996 race (won by Ligier's Olivier Panis). Simply put, the Monaco Grand Prix is one you can never predict.
What Monaco's like to drive?
A lap around Monaco is full of twists and turns, starting with the narrow Sainte-Devote right-hander which leads up the steep hill towards Beau Rivage and Massenet. The sweeping left-hand turn feeds into Casino Square, with drivers avoiding the natural crest in the road on the exit to stop the car from bottoming out as they brake for Mirabeau.
The most famous hairpin in Formula 1 follows after. Previously named the Station Hairpin, Loew's Hairpin and latterly the Grand Hotel Hairpin, it is the slowest corner on the track. Then it's onto the Lower Mirabeau right-hander followed by a short sharp shoot to Portier, where Senna famously crashed out of a comfortable lead in 1988. The fastest point on the track is through the iconic tunnel, which leads into a tricky downhill braking zone for the Nouvelle Chicane alongside the harbour. The sweeping Tabac left-hander is followed by the fast and technical swimming pool section. The lap finishes with the Rascasse hairpin and the Anthony Noghes turn, ahead of the main straight. It might not be fast, but it's certainly furious.
What's Monaco like to visit?
It's a place like no other, often described as a glittering jewel on the Mediterranean coastline. Monaco's historic tax haven status has made it home to celebrities and sports stars: including several Formula 1 drivers. During the grand prix weekend, the already dense population increases dramatically: to the extent that just getting around is an issue (not helped by the roads all being closed to accommodate the race track). So rather than do too much, the best approach to visiting the Monaco Grand Prix is just to soak up the rarefied atmosphere. Drop into Stars and Bars: a bar and burger joint next to the paddock where the walls are decorated with overalls, gloves, and other sporting memorabilia. A visit to the Tip Top bar near Mirabeau is also a must: allegedly a favourite hang-out of James Hunt. Opposite is Jimmy's nightclub: again a well-known celebrity hang-out. For some real French food, cross the border to Beausoleil (a 10-minute walk from Casino Square) and eat at the Maison du Caviar – which offers a lot more than just caviar. And for something more down to earth, there's always the Trinity Irish bar, just down the road from Portier. One thing you should never forget in Monaco though is your wallet. Stardom doesn't come cheap (unless you win at the Casino).