Last ditch talks – ‘Monaco must pay more or lose its F1 race’

Grand Prix racing his been seen in the principality since 1929, then in 1950 Formula One was created and the show rolled into town for its inaugural race. Juan Manuel FAngio won the race and was closely followed home by Albert Ascari in P2 – 1 lap down.

 Monaco has iconic status for many reasons, much of it to do with the glitz of Grace Kelly who married the current monarch’s father – and many credit with saving Monaco from being absorbed back into France.

Monaco 1

Of course there are iconic F1 drives in Monaco but that ultimate maestro of the principality was Ayrton Senna. He raced here 10 times, won 6 and without an engine failure and a red flag that tally could easily have been 8.

Until Bernie Ecclestone got hold of the sport in the late 70’s/early 80’s, many of the F1 venues were badly adapted old airfields without any glamour or the presence of such an array of celebrities.

So Monaco was a the chance for the drivers to be received with clamour and celebrity and the circuit has always been one of the most extreme tests of a driver’s 1 lap pace ability.

However, in modern times glitz and glamour has been springing up around the globe following Ecclestone’s master plan to expand the sport into countries that never before hosted F1.


State of the art circuits have been built in the Far and Middle East and America is once again welcoming Formula One with open arms.

Singapore, a huge financial centre of wealth came onto the calendar in 2008, though there had been a none-accredited GP in 1966 following the nations independence in 1965.

The wealthy from Asia flocked to the race, establishing it as the ‘Monaco of the East’. The Marina Bay street circuit quickly became the most technical track and being much longer than Monaco this chipped away at one of the Principality’s USP.

It is rumoured that Prince Rainier III saved Bernie Ecclestone’s bacon when he needed to make a deal to take control of Formula One’s commercial rights and since then has ‘hand shake’ special favour over other circuits.

The race promoter’s pay around half the Silverstone hosting fee and a quarter of that paid by the Middle Eastern promoters. Further, TV directional control is ceded from FOM for this race together with many non-accredited F1 adverts displayed around the circuit.

Rolex, an official sponsor of F1 competes on the Monaco hoardings with TAG who contribute only to the Monaco promoter’s pockets.


All this together with Monaco being the shortest circuit and with the current cars almost impossible to overtake, means as a race spectacle it is often a procession. Saturday qualifying is the big day, when the drivers push to to the max and the new F1 commercial rights holders are not sure this is how they want the sport to be seen.

New audiences don’t understand the heritage of Monaco on the F1 calendar and want to watch good racing, add this into the mix with the discounted fees and lost advertising revenue to FOM, and Monaco’s slot would be way more profitable if offered to another venue.

Media personnel love their all expenses paid trips to the Monaco GP and some of the senior team personnel receive royal grace and favour each year. So understandably its not often you hear from someone in the ‘F1 establishment’ with a dissenting voice in the ‘keep Monaco sacred’ debate.


However, Head of McLaren motorsport, Zac Brown, has weighed in on the issue in his usually candid fashion.

“I think Monaco has had a very advantageous commercial agreement with F1 forever and I think all F1 is trying to do is get a commercial agreement in place that is more consistent with the other venues while recognising its importance on the calendar

“But I think F11 is now the size and scope that it is bigger than any one team, any one driver, any one race.”

Brown adds that there are many other venues, which could offer glamour, and at the price FOM are demanding if Monaco refuse a new deal. The current arrangement is up after this year’s race and the Monaco promoter is so far refusing to meet Liberty Media’s new contractual arrangements going forward

“Of course, none of us want to see Monaco go”, adds the McLaren boss, “but also understand that as a commercial rights holder they need to have an arrangement more consistent with the other venues given the demand of tracks that want to host grand prix.”

Miami was added to the calendar this year, and despite certain cheesy Americanism’s like the fake Marina, the event from a glamour and track perspective was a huge success.

Next season Las Vegas joins the calendar and if anyone doubts Vegas knows how to do glitz and glamour – watch this space.

It really is time for the Monaco promoter to dig deep and agree a like for like deal with FOM, otherwise this historic venue will surely lose its place on the calendar – and the reason will be not the racing – but the money.

Which would be beyond ironiy.

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