Monaco is expected to stay on the F1 calendar beyond 2022, but there is no doubt that somehow Monaco needs to evolve not just to survive but subsequently thrive.
Monaco’s Grand Prix has always been processional, has always been problematic for racing.
Formula 1 should leverage the history of the race and show off its own rich heritage.
Formula 1’s pursuit of new street venues in destination cities, its eagerness to reduce Monaco’s anachronistic commercial arrangements, and Monaco’s own pandemic-enforced absence in 2020, means the principality’s event is no longer sacrosanct.
That was an unthinkable proposition a decade ago.
Monaco is expected to stay on the F1 calendar beyond 2022, but there is no doubt that somehow Monaco needs to evolve not just to survive but subsequently thrive if its status as one of motorsport’s crown jewels is to remain intact into its second century.
Monaco’s Grand Prix has always been processional, has always been problematic for racing, and those issues have been accentuated in recent years with Formula 1 cars becoming faster, wider and longer.
Here's a few potential ideas to try improve Monaco’s spectacle.
Don’t Be Afraid to Change the Circuit
Monaco’s layout is still traceable to the version that was first used back in 1929. But the circuit has evolved, sometimes naturally, sometimes enforced due to the construction of new architecture.
The "Swimming Pool" chicane was introduced in 1973 while the current Nouvelle Chicane layout was only implemented in 1986. The last tweak was in 2015, when the exit of Swimming Pool was slightly opened up.
Given Monaco’s geography wholesale changes are unrealistic, particularly given that areas of land are required for ancillary aspects such as the paddock and broadcast center. There are also access points to consider in and around the event. But there are sufficient alternative roads to at least trial, or to experiment with, particularly around the back end of the circuit towards the Larvotto district that could create a couple of straights and a hairpin.
At worst, it doesn’t work and makes no impact. At best it provides drivers with an additional challenge, new corners to tackle, and may create extra opportunities to race.
Make It a ‘Throwback' Race
Monaco is among motorsport’s oldest races (first run in 1929) and was part of Formula 1’s inaugural championship season (in 1950), so it’s fair to say it’s one of the most historic events.
Therefore Formula 1 should leverage that history and show off its own rich heritage. Why not ‘borrow’ (okay, totally steal) a page from NASCAR's Darlington race and run a "Throwback" race, allowing different liveries (and permitting teams to run each car in a different livery) as part of a nod to Formula 1’s past.
There would, naturally, be some sponsor clashes to overcome while Haas—in existence only since 2016—may struggle in the nostalgia stakes. A throwback theme would nevertheless create extra intrigue around the race weekend if every team (on each car) was unveiling and running special schemes.
McLaren’s one-off Gulf livery for Monaco’s 2021 round created a huge buzz, as did Red Bull’s special Turkey 2021 scheme, so imagine the entire paddock getting into the spirit of a throwback event for one Grand Prix, with retro schemes, sponsors using old-school logos, period TV graphics, and nostalgic clothing (albeit up to modern safety standards!)
Experiment With the format
This once would have been seen as desecration but with F1 introducing Sprint in 2021 some Grands Prix now have different regulations and associated points systems. Besides, Monaco itself is already different, with its race length running to 260 km (161 miles) rather than the 305 km (189 miles) that is standard at every other event. So it’s already a bit of an anomaly.
In the very old days it ran to 100 laps, sometimes stretching across three hours, so there’s scope to be creative if needed—though if audiences are unmoved by a 78-lap race then another 22 laps might just be an unwelcome feat of endurance. But it's worth pondering some ideas. Maybe tweak qualifying to make it one-shot, raising the pressure for drivers, or even allocate some points for Saturday.
Formula 1 already mandates running two different tire compounds at dry-weather grands prix so why not state that for Monaco all three compounds must be used, throwing in another strategic variable. Or maybe a Sprint race whereby the driver in last gets eliminated each lap. Something different, to at least trial, would provide additional intrigue at a circuit where wheel-to-wheel battles are highly improbable.
Formula 1 chiefs have enough simulation tools to experiment virtually before trialling something in reality. And something different would also give Monaco a unique flavour that its status warrants.
Improve the TV Coverage
This is twofold. The first aspect is that the trackside cameras Formula 1 uses fail to capture the sheer violence of these cars around such narrow streets. Hopefully the newly-introduced helmet camera will help demonstrate the challenge Monaco still provides, but overall there is room for improvement in terms of showing just how insane it is for these cars to be hurtling around the streets.
The secondary element is in the production. Monaco’s out-dated approach means it is something of a hangover from past decades; it is the only event not directed by Formula 1’s excellent own in-house team. It frequently means incidents are missed, the wrong car ends up getting tracked in qualifying, or there are random cutaways—which created a long-lasting meme in 2021.
One of the only pieces of genuine wheel-to-wheel action was missed when the director hit a replay of Lance Stroll doing something not very interesting or relevant. Fix this and the basic viewing experience will improve immediately.