Granger Whitelaw: A short history of the Monaco GP

The Monaco Gran Prix which takes place in the Principality of Monaco is one of Formula One’s most historic races, dating back to the 1920’s. The Monaco GP also happens to be one of my favorite races to attend. 

The Monaco Grand Prix is probably the most famous, and definitely the most glamorous event on the F1 calendar. Run on the streets of the principality since 1929, the race is considered part of the triple crown of motorsport alongside the Indy 500 and the Le Mans 24 Hours. Graham Hill was known as “Mr Monaco” in recognition of his five wins at the event – he is also the only man to have achieved the triple crown. His record at Monaco was eclipsed by Ayrton Senna who managed to win the race six times, including five back-to-back wins between 1989 and 1993.

The first world championship race in 1950 was won by Juan Manuel Fangio, and although the race did not take place again until 1955, it has been a permanent fixture on the schedule since then. The race nearly did not take place in 1972 as historically the number of cars permitted to compete in an event was decided by the organiser. The organisers of the Monaco race set the number at 16, but in 1972 Bernie Ecclestone was negotiating a deal which would guarantee at least 18 entrants at every event – eventually the organisers relented and the race took place.

 For a decade between 1984 and 1993 only two men won the race – Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. Senna was always immensely popular in Monaco, and after he was arrested on the Monday following the 1987 race for riding a motorcycle without wearing a helmet, he was released by the officers after they realized who he was.Micheal Schumacher won the race five times, sharing that record with Graham Hill.

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Monaco’s F1 Grand Prix is a combination of tradition and driving technique. For over a century, all the greatest drivers have distinguished themselves here an exceptional tale that began in 1929.

To be precise, it was at 1.30 p.m. on April 14th, 1929, that the first red light changed to green in the Principality of Monaco. A first edition held under the honorary presidency of HSH Prince Louis II. After HSH Prince Pierre opened the track on board a Voisin, race director Charles Faroux waved the flag for the sixteen competitors who where to fight it out over 100 laps of a circuit with a local distance of 318 km. It was in fact a certain Williams, in a green Bugatti 35 B, who drove to victory in this first edition of the Monaco Grand Prix, chalking up an average speed of 80.194 km/h..

Successive modifications to the track.

 Over the years, the original circuit was only slightly modified. In 1952, the “Sainte-Dévote” bend was altered, reducing the distance by only 35 mètres per lap… The second change, much more significant, was made in 1973. Following construction of the swiming pool, the track was redirected along the port and the stands were erected on the former quay. The circuit now included the famous “Rascasse” bend and was 135 meters longer. The number of laps was then reduced to 78 laps. Three years later, two chicanes were added, the first at “Saint-Dévote”, the second at the exit from hairpin bend close to the restaurant “La Rascasse”. The track thus gained a further 34 meters. In 1986, a third chicane at the beginning of the Quai des Etats-Unis brought the lap length to 3.328 km. The final change was made in 1997. It involved modification of the S-bend around the swimming pool, making today’s track length  3.367 km.

A policy dedicated to sportsmanship.

 Closer to our era, Nikki Lauda, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Olivier Panis, David Coulthard, Mika Hakkinen, Montoya and Trulli have all driven their cars to victory in the Principality. Not forgetting Michael Schumacher, seven times world champion, who on board his magical Ferrari, has victoriously crossed the finishing line five times in Monaco. The smallest state in Europe after the Vatican has thus seen its efforts and the imagination of its leaders justly rewarded. The appearance of the Monaco Grand Prix on the international agenda was indeed the result on the policy with the accent on sportsmanship, adopted by Monaco’s sovereigns and the directors of the Automobile Club de Monaco.

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About Granger Whitelaw

Granger Whitelaw founded the Rocket Racing League along with partner, Peter Diamandis in 2005. See more information at and View all posts by Granger Whitelaw

6 responses to “Granger Whitelaw: A short history of the Monaco GP

  • Morning

    Monaco Grand Prix is indeed glamorous and I think one of the races in the world that I like. Thanks for sharing its history and though I am a fan of Monaco Grand Prix by reading this article I find myself not really much knowledgeable in the race. I want to see this race soon and I think it will be really extraordinary.

  • Ronald Clark

    Such an interesting history of a race. I am really not much into racing things and stuff but the models of the car the physical apperance of a car is always amazes me and I don’t know why, maybe because since I was a child I like playing cars just like us guys here and that is the only reason that I know that might coincide with the idea.

  • Jasmine

    Ha ha ha “Senna was always immensely popular in Monaco, and after he was arrested on the Monday following the 1987 race for riding a motorcycle without wearing a helmet”, I find this one amusing and funny but I wonder how he treated by the officers who arrested him. I think he have gone to a penalty also. maybe he paid also for the penalty since no one is excused on the law.

  • Grace

    Such a simple yet nice article for the history of the monaco gp, indeed it’s one of the races that many attends and it was really been raced long time ago and it was really good. Races around the world are really being spread and throughout my country racing is really everywhere and even not legal races is existed and I think drag racing is what they call it.

  • Julie Mae

    I think my word for this one is luxury “Run on the streets of the principality since 1929, the race is considered part of the triple crown of motorsport alongside the Indy 500 and the Le Mans 24 Hours.”, I think the Monaco Grand Prix is one of the best and of course famous and no doubt to that and no one will object to that. Anyway, your history here are good though this is not new and most of the lines are familiar to me but there are some that I haven’t read before and thanks for it.

  • Sunburst

    Monaco Grand Prix lives for many years already and even myself, I was not born yet when this race did not started. The records of the race on your history are really one of those things that this Monaco Grand Prix existed for how many long years and to think that also, many people even in old ages love racing and that is an any types of racing. It is really safe to say that the records will forever be a history and the principality of Monaco well be known as history.

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