Each year the same question arises as soon as F1 touches down in Monaco, will Monaco be on the calendar next year? Considering that Monaco is an F1 staple, it seems odd that so many people are increasingly calling into question the longevity of Formula 1’s most prestigious race, but when you dig a little deeper you’ll soon stumble across the mounting list of issues that are threatening Monaco’s future in the sport.
So, what exactly are these issues?
The modern era of Formula 1 has introduced us to an entirely new breed of cars, when looking back at the F1 cars that christened the streets of Monte Carlo in 1950 it’s easy to see why Monaco became such an enticing race. The cars were confined by the barriers but were still small enough to provide the on-track entertainment that we’ve come to expect of Formula 1. However, in today’s day and age the size of these new cars often renders the prospect of seeing any wheel-to-wheel battles at Monaco moot. So, with that in mind most of the attention during the weekend is focused on the Saturday. Qualifying offers the most excitement as it demands perfection from the drivers and offers absolutely no margin for error. Once the intensity of the qualifying session fizzles out we’re often left with a boring race that requires interference from a driver error or external factors to retain your attention for the entirety of the Grand Prix. Alonso’s drive last year perfectly illustrates how these new cars are outgrowing the Monaco circuit, he was able to hold up half of the field by driving slowly and essentially creating a second group of cars that became totally detached from the leaders of the race. It was extremely difficult for anyone to overtake him regardless of their tyres or strategy as the space that the car took up simply meant that for a majority of the track there was just no room for anyone else to drive alongside him let alone go wheel to wheel, or was there?
As the complaints filed in from drivers that were stuck behind Alonso, further down the grid Gasly’s race told and entirely different story. The now Alpine driver put on a show at Monaco with the amount overtakes that he was able to pull off completely contradicting those who insisted that overtaking at Monaco was impossible in this new generation of cars. Although Monaco has built up a reputation for being one of the dullest races of the year we have seen some of F1’s most memorable moments take place at the iconic circuit, from the classic rain-soaked race in 2008 that saw Hamilton take his first win at Monaco, to Ricciardo’s now infamous pit stop failure that cost him the race in 2016, to last year’s disaster class from Ferrari. There’s no question as to whether Monaco can deliver a good race, it’s just a question of how consistent can the circuit be. With rain scheduled for this weekend we may be in for another classic race but with drivers having already made it a point to mention that they are unable to follow as closely in this year’s cars, I wouldn’t get my hopes to high as we never quite know what to expect in Monaco.
Monaco has long been established as F1’s crown jewel, it holds a level of prestige that is unparalleled in the sport and it’s universally recognised as one of, if not the most iconic race on the calendar with some drivers admitting that they would rather win at Monaco as opposed to their home grand prix. The historic legacy of this race has granted it an almost untouchable status, but earlier this year Stefano Domenicali came out and sent a warning to all of the historic tracks on the calendar alerting them that their legacy within F1 is no longer enough to keep them in the sport, they must offer something more. As the sport has moved into the modern world is it looking to leave behind the tracks of the past? I personally don’t think so, but there is no denying that Monaco is one of the most divisive tracks on the calendar. On one hand you have those who would love to leave this track behind in favour of returning to forgotten favourites or seeking out completely new circuits altogether, but on the flip side you have those who will defend Monaco to no end as it’s become so integrated into the sport that it’s essentially now a part of Formula 1’s DNA. As the debate between the two sides rages on I think you’ll find that a majority of fans do fall in favour of Monaco for the time being, but who’s to say whether this will be enough to keep it on the calendar beyond its current contract or whether the tides will turn sometime in the near future.
Speaking of F1’s future, Monaco has become one of the most contentious points when looking at the direction that the sport is heading in. The latest additions to the F1 calendar have both been US street tracks which in theory should work in Monaco’s favour, as it’s the most well-known street track on the F1 calendar. However, we can’t overlook the biggest factor that got the Miami and Las Vegas tracks onto the calendar, America. The appetite for Formula 1 has blown up in the States and there is no doubt that Formula 1 is adjusting in order to appeal to a wider US audience. Monaco fits the direction that Formula 1 is heading in on paper, but it can’t attract an American audience in the same way that a Miami or Las Vegas can. In addition to the previous issues that have built up around Monaco, they have also recently undergone drawn out negotiations with Formula 1 to extend their spot on the calendar. Monaco’s contract with Formula 1 was up for renewal last year and it took a considerably long time to reach an agreement, leading many to question if 2022 would be the last year that we race at Monaco. The contract with Monaco was eventually renewed until 2025 but could these negotiations cause more hassle than they’re worth in the future? The Monaco Grand Prix is unique in that it has historically had particular privileges that the other races have not, amongst one of the most notable differences was that they retained the rights to control the TV direction throughout the race weekend. Over the years there have been increasing complaints about the TV direction and for the first time ever Formula 1 have announced that they will be taking over the TV direction in 2023. This was a significant moment as it highlights that Monaco is no longer held on the pedestal that it once was, it is having to sacrifice more than it has in the past to ensure that it can keep up with the new tracks on the calendar and retain its spot in Formula 1.
Taking all of this into consideration, I don’t think Monaco will disappear from calendar as it plays too much of an important role within the sport, however its spot on the calendar is no longer as secure as it once was. With the ever-expanding calendar and the surge of new fans that are flocking into the sport, F1 no longer have to rely on historic tracks to pull people in nor do they have to majoritively focus on the hardcore F1 fans as the causal F1 fan is quickly becoming the biggest market in the sport. Removing Monaco from F1 would leave the season feeling incomplete, but given the direction that the sport is heading in I don’t think it’s completely out of the question at some point in the future.