Out of all the races on the F1 calendar few capture the imagination like Monaco. From the sheer history of the race to the fact Robbie Williams based one of his songs on it to the fact many people have been caught on camera being there when they were “supposed” to be somewhere else. It’s the glitz and glamor race of the F1 calendar, the place people want to be and be seen (most of the time).
It’s also a place I used to call home for five years when I worked with Mika Hakkinen. If you can call being somewhere 1 ½ to 2 months a year living there.
For all its glitz and glamor for those working in F1 Monaco is actually more of a chore than most other races. Firstly, the paddock and the pitlane are in different places. It’s much better and more equipped than it ever used to be in the past but it’s still a pain to get around.
Just getting to the track for most involves a reasonably long walk. There’s nowhere to park near the paddock in Monaco unlike most of the other races so team members staying in Monaco walk into the track and back every day (I say those staying in Monaco as some stay outside Monaco where the accommodation is either available or more cost effective) At least they are guaranteed some exercise!
We stay in the Columbus hotel that for this year has just undergone a nine-month renovation. It’s a smaller more boutique style hotel, has friendly easy-going staff who I’ve got to know well over the years, especially Patrick the concierge. The biggest plus of staying here is how easy it is to get to and from the paddock. We use a scooter here all the time (and even when the race isn’t on it’s by far the most convenient mode of transport) as a car, as mentioned earlier has no chance of getting to the paddock at the times we need to be there. On the scooter (with Kimi driving) we have a four ish minute ride into the paddock from the hotel through one tunnel and we are into the paddock next to the main swipe gate. Only Baku is easier in terms of getting into the paddock from the hotel where we walk out of the hotel and are practically in the paddock already.
The tunnel is manned by the local security and access is only granted if your scooter has the right pass, but the system works well and really saves a lot of time. If you were staying at the other end of Monaco where a lot of the other teams stay even on a scooter because of all the road closures you’d either have to leave really early or take a massive diversion.
The only other way to get to the paddock is by boat using a tender. It’s slower and while the water in the harbour seems flat it can get really choppy outside so unless you planned on rocking up in your swimming trunks it’s not the most practical option.
One of the nice things about Monaco is everything is walkable. The other plus is Friday in Monaco is an easier day as we don’t drive (our first driving day here is Thursday). For the drivers there is an autograph session to do in the afternoon and a few meetings to attend and because of the fact it’s an easier day for everyone the teams use it as the ideal opportunity to have a team party Thursday night. The DJ a few years ago at the Ferrari party was Bob Sinclair which was a pretty amazing night! (although not such an amazing morning)
Redbull have a party on their floating energy station which sits floating just outside the main paddock. As it’s floating legally it needs to have its own captain!
As a race weekend it’s a pretty tiring event but also fun in its own way! At the height of the dot com boom there were so many millionaires living
off so much easy cash from IPO’s of nothingness that the boats in the Monaco harbour were a sight to behold. I went boat hopping with Nick one of my best friends who still lives in Monaco. We ended up sitting in a boat where a party was in full swing around an indoor pool. At some point of the evening the pool was cleared a button pressed and the pool was covered by a dance floor and a DJ sprang into action. The excess was like something out of the wolf of wall street!
After the dot com bubble burst a few years later the boats in the harbour were just as lavish, there just weren’t so many of them. I’d love to know how many people come to Monaco just for the nightlife and the party and never actually see any of the racing.
From a race point of view Monaco is also one of the most prestigious to win. Pole position here requires big balls and a perfect lap and the race requires immense concentration especially if it rains as any slight mistake is punished by a trip into the barriers.
Do I like Monaco as a race? In all honesty I do, it brings back a lot of memories, from living here when I first started working in F1 in Mika’s spare bedroom with his pet tortoise, to winning the race with both Mika and Kimi and watching Kimi park his broken McLaren one year on the side of the track and walk straight to his boat for a beer to continue watching the race. At the time most of the team wished they could join him.
It’s the sort of race that takes an extra day to recover from for most and for the catering staff, mechanics and FOM staff that work the longest hours it’s a week of very little sleep, a lot of walking and a good opportunity for a well-deserved party!
But it’s a beautiful setting on the turquoise waters of the med. For training here outside is best. A run (or even a walk) along the coastal path from Fontvieille really is quite stunning. There are plenty of places to do some training outside here but what comes to mind the most when I think of business travellers isn’t necessarily so much the training here, it’s more about how to help people recover the morning after from the excess of the client dinners / parties the night before!
Enjoy the race!