Monaco fails to meet FIA grade 1 certification

Each year the debate re-emerges as to whether Formula One has outgrown the Monaco race circuit. The F1 cars are now double the footprint of those which raced in early years of the newly established FIA championship.

Of course Grand Prix racing in Monaco pre-dates the F1 era which was established in 1950.



Monaco GP predates F1

The Automobile Club de Monaco (ACM) which organised the Monte Carlo Rally applied to the International Motorsports governing body (AIACR) in 1928 to be upgraded from a regional French racing club to a one with National status.

They were refused due to the lack of a major motorsport event held wholly within Monaco’s boundaries. Their rally was held  on the roads of other European countries.

To attain full national status the president of the ACM, Anthony Noghes, proposed the creation of an automobile Grand Prix wholly within the streets of Monte Carlo.

The first race was held 14th April 1929 and won Williams Grover-Williams driving a works Bugatti Type 35 which can be seen competing to this day at the Goodwood festival of speed.



Circuit layout hardly altered

The original circuit layout remained the same until 1972 when the pit lane was moved to its current position. The following year the swimming pool stadium was erected and the previous straight became a double chicane winding its way around the pool arena.

The track was altered once more in 1976 but other than these ‘tweaks’ the Monaco road course remains as it always has been.

Monaco has been the source of controversy over the years and it’s believed Prince Rainier III lent Bernie Ecclestone the money to acquire the commercial rights to Formula One from the FIA.

This allegedly meant Monaco has received ‘special’ treatment with reduced hosing fees compared to other F1 races together with the right to charge for promotional sponsorship which at all other events sits with Formula One.

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Monaco given just a 3 year deal

Until this year’s race Monaco also retained the right to produce the TV pictures for the race but under a new three year deal agreed last year the broadcast is now performed by the usual FOM team for the 2023 Grand Prix.

Monaco’s new three year deal went down to three wire time wise due to Liberty Media demanding they upgrade the facilities in the principality.

A three year deal is also unusual in modern times because promoters want the certainty to know they have a number of years to reclaim any investment required.

Its been speculated that a number of demands have been made of the ACM who organise the event and they have been given three years to deliver or the next contract will not be forthcoming.



Monaco circuit fails FIA specification

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes the Monaco circuit needs to change due to the modern demands of the Formula One cars.

Overtaking in the modern era is nigh on impossible and the event becomes mostly about the excitement of qualifying on Saturday and Horner believes modifications to the circuit could be made to facilitate overtaking once more.

The Monaco circuit is the shortest on the F1 calendar and in fact does not meet the criteria for the FIA grade 1 circuit certification because it is shorter than 3.5km. No other race on the calendar would be given approval for an F1 race, yet Monaco has always clipped special privileges from the sport.

Making the track wider may assist in improving overtaking opportunities but this would require building outwards into the sea. This was done for the 1986 Grand Prix when the ‘Nouvelle chicane’ was introduced to improve safety.

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Horner calls for changes to track

The Red Bull boss wants to see changes to the Monaco track because the venue has unique appeal. “Monaco is Monaco, and it’s here because of its history, its uniqueness,” he told assembled media.

“I think the problem we have is that cars are so big now that all venues have to evolve a little. I think if there was just one area we could create a bit of space for an overtake, it would just give that chance, because there’s so much weight just placed on qualifying. 

“The race is won or lost on Saturday.”

Monaco is currently developing a new $2bn project to extend into the sea another 6 hectares and create hundreds of new homes and Horner believes this demonstrates the circuit can in fact be improved.



Maybe “add another kilometre”

“I’m sure with the creativeness that there is and the amount of land that they’re reclaiming here, there’s got to be the opportunity to squeeze in a bigger braking zone.

“Maybe make turn one a little sharper or slower or maybe extend the circuit. If there’s an opportunity to add another kilometre in that included a hairpin that would be phenomenal.

“I think that’s something maybe to contemplate when you think of the next 20 years of Monaco, you don’t want to see it left behind.”

The Red Bull chief doesn’t believe the poor overtaking opportunities at present threatens the future of the race.

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Monaco race in decline for 15 years

“It’s part of the history of F1 and I think because of that, it earns its place and it’s the jewel in the crown in many respects.

“But I think that as the sport continues to evolve, nobody can stand still. And I think Monaco is part of that.”

“You’ve got to have half a chance in the race to make a move,” he added. “I think if they could just find a way of maybe slowing turn one or creating an extra little bit of circuit here it would be phenomenal if an overtaking area could be introduced.”

Monaco has been in decline since the global financial crisis of the naughties as chief executives believed their shareholders would not be impressed seeing them living it up in the principality.



2023 “biggest” race in recent memory

Yet it appears this attitude has now been superseded as this years race was one of the busiest in recent memory.

Toto Wolff agreed this was the case claiming,“This year’s been the biggest that I’ve ever seen, with increased traffic for paddock members trying to navigate their way in and out of the track.”

It could be the short three year contract Monaco was awarded last season is a form of stick and carrot to once again move the organisers forward with their thinking.

Having been forced to pay more for their hosting fee it would be in the interest of the ACM to make Sunday’s in Monte Carlo more interesting for fans of Formula One.

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9 responses to “Monaco fails to meet FIA grade 1 certification

  1. Monaco has never met the standard track length criteria, so nothing new in this regard, & nothing can realistically make overtaking easier be that car dimensions (as proven by the distant past), weight, tyres, DRS, powertrains, etc., & even configuration changes would be easier said than done & not necessarily guarantee improved overtaking.
    Yes, Monaco has received more artificial land mass beside Portier & tunnel entry, but that’s solely for buildings, while alternative routes deviating before Massenet & Portier are also tight or even tighter, so no better for racing quality.

  2. I realise it’s F1, but just for Monoco circuit the drivers could race identical Minis or any other car. That would make for a far more exciting race in overtaking and it would give talented drivers in the slower teams to shine.

  3. I’ve wondered if it was possible to extend the track before the go into the tunnel, using the roundabout could be an option.

  4. Coincidence that you report this story today after Channel 4 in the UK showed the film made by Prince Rainier about the history of the race and the changes made over the years. Including comments about the financial terms from Bernie. The film was made in 2019 so some changes since then but I think the comment made by Bernie then would still hold weight today despite him no longer in charge.
    ‘We would hold the race here for Free if needed but please don’t do that to me’

  5. By adding two straights along the princess grace avenue and a chicane before entering the tunnel would create overtaking opportunities and lengthen the circuit, problems solved

  6. The solution is readily available for the cost of resurfacing just 200m of track. I’ve been saying this for probably 10 years now but nobody listens.
    The fastest part of the circuit is at the exit of the tunnel, so add a 200m straight after the tunnel to allow faster cars, or cars with fresh tyres, to overtake. Where does this 200m miraculously appear from?
    By moving turns 10 and 11 200m further down Avenue J F Kennedy then have the chicane! If you look at the helicopter shots of the circuit after turn 11, about halfway down you can see painted lines appearing from where the new chicane would be.
    Like all great ideas it is cheap, simple to construct and green, because minimum effort is required to make the Monaco GP competitive ON RACEDAY!
    After the farago of Daniel Ricciardo winning with his car 25% down on power compared to the cars behind him, I wrote to the organisers suggesting exactly this. Their response was 🤐
    I hit upon this idea after watching Formula E, where the cars drove up Avenue J F Kennedy and made a hairpin turn back onto the F1 circuit to complete the lap.
    Thoughts please.

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