Rascasse, Casino square, the swimming pool complex, Fairmont corner and the tunnel! If you follow your Formula One odds are you’ll recognise these names. If not you’ll most certainly have heard of the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix. The most famous of them all and the one event you must go to. Such is the glitz and glamour of the the event those with power, money and stars of Hollywood will attend the event simply to be seen. F1 wouldn’t be the same without it.
The timeline of my trip around Europe meant I missed the GP by about 2 months. However staying in Nice I couldn’t give up the opportunity visit and to walk the track. A European summer also gave arise to the prospect of seeing some amazing cars. And it didn’t disappoint. Off the train and 5 minutes down the hill we were at the famous Monte Carlo Casino. Parked out front was a Mercedes Benz SLS, Rolls Royce Wraith and Ferrari 488- not bad bearing in mind it was early morning.
We followed the track direction so we were off down the hill to Fairmont corner. What immediately struck me was just how narrow and tight the roads really are. It’s a public road so the surface has bumps and blemishes that the TV simply doesn’t pick up. A lot of the F1 drivers live in Monte Carlo so I’m sure they get plenty of time to see the defects develop over time. The first GP was in 1929 and if it were introduced today it simply wouldn’t happen- it’s too dangerous. You can see just how much precision and concentration the track demands.
Secondly the gradient is much steeper than I’d thought. The road really does dive down towards the sea. It was quite a stormy day with a large swell when I was there so walking through the tunnel waves had crashed over the wall. I’m sure this weather would have kept some of the treasures of Monaco hidden away in there underground garages. A couple of 997.2 Porsches were the only ones brave enough for a squirt through the tunnel. Even so I stood for a minute and could only imagine the symphony of noise that this famous tunnel had heard over the years- F1 cars over the decades from V12s’ to hybrid V8’s of today, plus Playboys from the 30’s in Bentleys through to the hyper cars of today showing off!
Emerging from the tunnel the harbour revealed itself in all its glory. The yachts are of a simply staggering size and the skyline of buildings, although somewhat less opulent than I had thought, were impressively built into the hill. I can see why it’s a crown jewel of the Rivera. Towards the swimming pool complex the odd Ferrari California and Porsche Turbo S cruised past. At Rascasse they have a quite a special memorial sculpture for none other than Juan Manuel Fangio and his Mercedes-Benz W196. Quite fitting really then that walking along the start/ finish straight the next car I saw was another car in homage to those great Silver Arrows race cars- a Mercedes McLaren SLR 722. It was in a full, and by full I meant everything, chrome wrap. Yes even the windscreens had a chrome wrap over them. The Kuwait registered car still glistened in the patchy sun and sped up the hill towards the Casino.
Now that hill, again, is certainly steeper than it looks on TV. It’s not a hands on knees slog up the hill but none the less one that in the heat gets the calves burning. I can imagine it’s quite the hillclimb circuit for the locals as several of the Porsches and Ferraris spotted earlier where just lapping the streets. The tourist novelty train when by and in tow was a McLaren 650S Spider, a Lamborghini Huracan and another SLS convertible.
The hill flattens out and you pass by luxury stores such as Hermes and Gucci before the left hander to return to to the Casino. This completed my lap of the 3.33 kilometre circuit. After meandering through Monte Carlo is was now early afternoon and Casino Square had turned into Monaco gridlock. People were spilled out onto the road as a mixture of tourists getting selfies in front of the Casino, car spotters snapping away, locals using the concierge as a way of getting a free parking spot and high rollers arriving to test their luck inside. Through the lot the Kuwait SLR was parked up, joined by an Aventador with SV style aftermarket kit plus a Tron inspired KTM X-Bow. Plenty of Roll Royces and 4 door Maserati’s looked to serve as the taxi fleet of Monaco.
A gloss black Huracan revved to startle the crowd and a Ferrari 458 Speciale Aperta in a beautiful grey on black with diamond cut wheel arrived. It was a mother and daughter in the car who looked to be out for an afternoon of shopping. It was refreshing to see how many of the cars actually were out being driven my woman. A black McLaren 650S has passed earlier with the wife at the wheel too.
While I didn’t have the weather for the hypercard fleet to be out in force or stay late enough in the day to see the shenanigans as night fell it was certainly a memorable visit. It’s is really neat is that the armco clippings are left out as a permanent feature in the roads so you can have your obligatory photo touching the curbs. Others visiting might chance their hand of exploring the underground car parks to see what was parked up. Just the F1 drivers cars alone would be impressive to see. Lewis Hamilton has his Ferrari La Ferrari, McLaren P1 and infamous purple Pagani Zonda LH in the hills somewhere. A day prior I’d seen a Bugatti Veyron and a McLaren P1 parked up in Cannes outside a hotel. However the over eager security guards had shooed the public away meaning I only got the one photo. I imagine the same could be done for the carparks in Monte Carlo so it’s probably an attempt made better by a car than on foot.
Visiting Monaco and Monte Carlo had always been on my list. It’s a stunning spot which was capped off by seeing a beautiful Riviera Blue Porsche 993- an RS inspired car, on the Riviera. It’s picture postcard stuff and it means I’ll simply have to return another time to see the F1 for real.