For the first time since 1954, the Monaco Grand Prix will not take place this year—and, for some F1 fans, that’s not entirely a bad thing. The iconic race has been maligned in recent years, and for good reason: who wants to watch modern F1 cars drive single file across narrow city streets, with virtually no chance for overtakes, as billionaires look on from enormous yachts? Critics have argued the event is boring, outdated, and downright obnoxious.
For years, I believed that, too. That is, until I actually attended the race in 2019 and witnessed the pomp and circumstance firsthand. From bombastic ceremonies to surprisingly passionate locals, the experience wound up defying my expectations, resulting in a charming weekend that could sway even the most hardened F1 cynic.
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Revisions to the Tabac corner on Monaco’s Grand Prix circuit have further reduced the length of what was already the shortest track on the F1 calendar. The drivers now arrive at the corner slightly earlier as the section of track which links the Tabac left-hander to the start of the Swimming Pool complex has been moved closer to the harbour by 2.5 metres.
So take a trip with me to last year’s race and find out how you, too, can check this Grand Prix off your bucket list—without breaking the bank—and maybe even rekindle your love of F1 in the process.
There’s no denying that the Principality of Monaco is a strange place. At less than one square mile in size, you could feasibly walk across it in an hour. Hotel and Airbnb options are slim and laughably overpriced, so I stayed in nearby Nice, France, which offers its own picturesque views of the French Riviera and a much wider array of affordable hotel options. Only a half-hour train ride from Monaco, it is an ideal home base for Grand Prix weekend. (Do not, under any circumstances, try to drive into Monaco on race day; the train is a much, much better experience.)
If you’re worried about ticket prices, you have options. Grandstand seats for race day can set you back a few hundred dollars, but more affordable general admission tickets exist, or you could attend only the qualifying session (which, given the lack of overtaking during the race, is actually the highlight of the weekend).Advertisement
Additionally, Monaco is the only F1 race of the year that has an entirely free “Fan Zone” event on the Friday before the race, allowing you to potentially meet drivers, watch a featured F2 race, and walk the track afterward. It's a great option for those looking to get the flavor of the event without spending a dime.
Arriving at the Monte Carlo train station is a spectacle unto itself. A mob of F1 fans snake out of the station and pack the streets outside, with merchandise stands lining nearly every major road and alcove. Ferrari billboards greet you at each turn as you wind your way down to La Rascasse—the area near the “Fan Zone,” which includes free slot car racing, photo opportunities, esports booths, and more. These same types of diversions are available at other F1 races, like at Texas’ Circuit of the Americas track, but there’s something exhilarating about having it all packed within the small city confines of Monaco. You feel like you’re in the middle of everything.
Contrary to popular belief, even the Monegasque locals were fired up and enthusiastic about the Grand Prix. This is likely because young Charles Leclerc—already the most successful Monegasque F1 driver in history—was making his hometown Ferrari debut. Leclerc-themed graffiti, posters, and banners adorned walls and apartment windows. (Locals who don't enjoy the race usually make sure they're somewhere else that weekend.)
When the hometown hero failed to make it out of Qualifying Session 1, the frenzied crowd was visibly shaken.
A local man dressed head to toe in Leclerc gear looked at me near the merchandise booth with sad eyes and said, “Ferrari strategy…how do you say?” He thought for a moment. “It’s crap!”
On race day itself, the city is swarmed with tourists. Outdoor bars and restaurants are buzzing as early as 7am as fans make their way to the grandstands.
I passed the Casino de Monte-Carlo and the famous swimming pool as I worked my way toward my seats at the Bureau de Tabac grandstand, which overlooks the yachts docked on the Mediterranean Sea—only a short distance from the Nouvelle Chicane and the exit of the track’s infamous tunnel. If you have binoculars or a zoom lens, this is a perfect area for people watching, allowing you to see billionaires partying on yachts as well as various other spectators, hailing from all walks of life, as they head to their seats.
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Below the temporary grandstands is a complicated maze of steel support beams, with an atmosphere that feels more like a high school football game than the most prestigious race on Earth. Monegasque teenagers stand at makeshift concession stands selling cheap ham-and-cheese baguettes, and you could even pick up a $5 beer (music to the ears of someone accustomed to American stadium pricing). The whole arrangement is in stark contrast to the extravagant yacht views above, and it’s actually rather charming.
Before the race began, pomp and circumstance commenced: Monaco’s Prince Albert waved to fans as he led a lengthy motorcade; a team of paragliders swooped down while waving Monaco’s flag; and all of the yachts honked their horns during the Monegasque national anthem in honor of F1 driver Niki Lauda, who had passed away just a few days prior.
The F1 race began, and the crowd was whipped into an early frenzy. Leclerc made a few brilliant overtakes early on, drawing cheers from the apartment dwellers overhead, although he eventually blew out a tire and had to retire from the race.
But Max Verstappen, arguably F1’s most electric superstar, delighted the crowd most of all as he made a mad dash on Lewis Hamilton in the final laps, providing some gripping late-race drama—although he never did catch Hamilton.
The highlight of the race came after the podium celebration, when fans once again were allowed to walk the iconic track. The entire city had turned into a giant party, with cheap adult beverages flowing and music blaring on side streets.
Walking the track is a must: Monaco’s circuit might appear narrow and boring on television, but experiencing it in person gives you a true sense of just how difficult it is to maintain control on those sharp corners. (On Friday, when racing is suspended so people can get to the shops, you can also drive it, although the roads are two-way, traffic can be heavy, and the police are omnipresent, so a lap might take you 30 minutes.)
I came into the Monaco Grand Prix expecting a dull, lifeless race, with locals who were disinterested and even annoyed by all the tourists. I walked away more excited about F1 than ever, especially with young stars like Leclerc and Verstappen energizing the crowd.
It’s unfortunate that the race won’t be happening this weekend, but the Automobile Club de Monaco has already confirmed dates for next year’s Grand Prix (to be held a week earlier than usual: May 20-23, 2021). Once travel is safe again, you should definitely consider a trip to this iconic event. There might not be many overtakes, but the experience is one you’ll never forget.
Listing image by Gregory Leporati
The Monaco Grand Prix the most exclusive and unique of all the races on the Grand Prix schedule and is one of the only true street circuits in the Formula 1 World Championship! As a licensed Tour Operator, we have been providing travel packages and tickets to the F1 Monaco Grand Prix since 1982. If you are looking for the best options for Official Monaco Grand Prix 2021 tickets, packages, hospitality tours and dates you are at the right place. Let us show you how to best experience all of the action at the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix. Dates for the 2021 Formula One Monaco Grand Prix are May 20 to 23, 2021. The 2021 Monaco Grand Prix is the event that all true Grand Prix fans must attend at least once in their life.
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There are several way to follow the excitement of the Monaco Grand Prix through Monte Carlo’s narrow streets, hills, and tight corners. It’s by far one of the most challenging tracks in Formula One racing, and that level of difficulty is only increased by the unique tunnel the drivers are forced through. There is absolutely nothing else in the world that compares with the experience of seeing first hand these cars on the Monaco Grand Prix track.
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The Grand Prix Club Hospitality Suite offers the best possible location in Monaco for the best overall views of most of the track. Views include the start/finish straight, first corner and up the hill toward the Casino, the exit from the tunnel, Tabac Corner and Swimming Pool Chicane and spectacular vista of the Monaco Harbor. Together with the views and the outstanding hospitality and the Grand Prix Club’s Hospitality Suite is the best way to experience event. Your experience will include:
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The largest and best grandstands at Monaco (and the best atmosphere) can be found in the harbor complex from the Tabac corner through to La Rascasse. The K grandstands are a safe bet, as are O and T, both of which have views of the pits. In our opinion, grandstand B on Casino Square is overpriced and doesn’t offer good views – but it’s an iconic location and worth checking out on Thursday or Friday.
Grandstand A1 is located on the inside of turn 1, otherwise known as Sainte Devote. Following the start/finish straight, the track narrows considerably at Sainte Devote; you can almost guarantee some action here on the opening lap of the race. From the top row, you can also turn around and glimpse the cars entering the harbor section of the circuit, right behind the stand. No access to big screen TV.
CASINO CORNER – Grandstand B at Casino square is one of the most expensive on sale at Monaco. Located opposite the Casino and close to Hotel de Paris, you get a view of the cars taking the tricky Casino corner before heading down the hill to Mirabeau. This grandstand offers big screen TV viewing. Given the high price and lack of panoramic views of the circuit, there are better options for a 3-day pass to Monaco – but Grandstand B is worth considering for one day.
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Grandstand C is located on the Portier Corner before the tunnel entrance, an important section of the circuit where drivers try to line up overtaking moves. Tribune C is a good value option on both Thursday and Saturday but lacks the atmosphere found in the Harbor section, which offers better race-day Grandstand choices.
Grandstand K is the largest and most popular harbor grandstand with good views from the exit of the Tunnel Chicane, the Tabac corner and up to the entry of the Swimming Pool complex. Seats in the top row of K also offer views behind you of the main start/finish straight and turn 1 (Sainte Devote).
Grandstand L is located next to the Monaco swimming pool with views of the last turn in the Swimming Pool complex as well as the pits. Not the cheapest Grandstand at Monaco, but a safe choice for a first-time visitor who wants to be at the heart of the trackside action.
Grandstand N and Grandstand P are wide and low, flank the higher and more expensive O grandstand in the center. All three grandstands are located over the water in the harbor with views of the swimming pool complex of the circuit.
Grandstand O is the highest of the three grandstands in the harbor facing the swimming pool section of the circuit. If you can afford it, O is a better choice than N or P, as the views are more panoramic and you also get a distant view of the pits – bring binoculars! All three grandstands have views of a big screen TV.
Grandstand T, located in the Harbor area opposite the pits, is one of the larger grandstands at Monaco. The grandstand is divided into lower and upper areas. The more expensive higher seats have views of the pits and are the only COVERED grandstand seats at the MONACO GRAND PRIX. A great view as the cars exit the last turn of the Swimming pool complex before heading down the short straight to the Rascasse hairpin just before the Pit Lane entry.
Grandstand V is a small stand located very close to the circuit on the outside of the Anthony Noghes corner, after La Rascasse and before the main start-finish straight. This grandstand also provides a view of the cars entering pit lane. This stand is good choice for at least one day but there are better 3-day grandstand choices.
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Grandstand X1 and X2 are small, low grandstands on the main start-finish straight. Apart from offering a good view of the race preparations and start, these stands are not the best choice and their cheaper price reflects this. If you do decide to buy here, X2 is the better bet as it is closer to the start/finish line