Monaco Grand Prix dropped? Reasons for and against binning F1’s most divisive race

Oliver Harden
Charles Leclerc leads out of Ste Devote with the rest of the F1 field in a heat haze behind him

Charles Leclerc leads the field at the start of the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix

For the first time in F1 history, the top 10 on the grid finished exactly where they started at the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix. That sobering statistic will only add to the impression that Monte Carlo has had its time.

With F1 2025 the last year of Monaco’s existing deal, a potentially monumental decision over its future is looming. Let’s assess the arguments for and against dropping F1’s most divisive race…

Should the Monaco Grand Prix be dropped from the F1 calendar?

For: F1 has outgrown it

When people say that F1 has outgrown Monaco, usually they are referring to the physical specification of the cars.

And they have a point.

With the cars growing longer, wider and heavier over the last decade – partly by necessity to accommodate the latest safety advancements like the halo, partly through choice by embracing the unloved V6 hybrid power units – the detrimental effect on the racing action at a circuit of Monte Carlo’s characteristics is obvious.

Yet it is also the style of racing modern F1 engenders, and the emphasis on management of tyres and fuel, that compromises the Monaco Grand Prix.

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It is often said that only a mistake by the driver ahead can facilitate an overtaking opportunity here, yet with drivers operating well below the ultimate pace in racing conditions – all to meet stint lengths, you see – the likelihood of errors is dramatically reduced.

And so, as everyone settles into a comfort zone – pushing no harder than necessary, leaving plenty of margin, just ticking off the laps as they come – it is little wonder that a processional race develops.

Would a return to full-fat, flat-out F1, with tyres built to last and drivers let off the leash, rejuvenate Monaco? Quite possibly.

But that ain’t happening any time soon.

So instead the sense pervades that F1 has left this grand old place behind.

Against: There’s still magic in these streets

Take a trip through the last two decades and it is remarkable just how many of the most memorable – and controversial – F1 moments of recent times have occurred in Monaco.

It was here where Michael Schumacher infamously parked his Ferrari at Rascasse in the closing minutes of qualifying in 2006 and where Michael later made his last stand by setting pole position in 2012.

These streets witnessed Nico Rosberg heading down the escape road at Mirabeau in 2014 qualifying – an innocent mistake, he protested, and most definitely not a Schumi-style, pre-meditated trick to spoil Lewis Hamilton’s last attempt (nod nod, wink wink) – before Nico was the beneficiary of Lewis and Mercedes conspiring to throw away the win in 2015.

Hamilton got his revenge the following year at the expense of a devastated Daniel Ricciardo, who finally found redemption by taking his signature F1 win despite nursing a fading engine in 2018.

2019? That was the first real head-to-head tussle on even ground between Hamilton and Max Verstappen in a glimpse of what was to come in 2021, the year Charles Leclerc’s crash at the Swimming Pool late in Q3 denied him the chance to take his place on pole 24 hours later.

The point?

If the value of a grand prix is measured in moments, its ability to generate compelling narratives and produce images to hang frozen in time, Monaco still sets the standard.

For: Modern street circuits have changed the game

Overlook Melbourne and Montreal and as recently as 2007 Monaco was the only true street circuit on the calendar.

Fast forward to F1 2024 and there are now five, with the new additions all going some way to redefining what a street circuit should be.

Certainly, when compared to the likes of Jeddah and Baku in particular – all fast kinks, blind entries and slipstream dreams – Monaco really does have the look of a relic from F1’s past.

Saudi Arabia sees Monaco’s hairpin, the slowest corner on the calendar, and raises you its Turn 22, the fifth-gear left entry into the super-quick chicane, where cars fly past in a flash.

The redevelopment of Albert Park for 2022 was a troubling one for Monaco, the removal of the chicane in the middle sector in favour of a kinked, Jeddah-style straight confirmation that there is a certain template for street circuits to adhere to today.

Yet it was the arrival of Las Vegas in 2023 – not just an event with the glamour, imagery and pulling power to match Monte Carlo, but a circuit where the cars could race well too – that felt significant for Monaco’s hopes of remaining on the calendar for the long term under Liberty Media.

The Monaco of the 21st Century? F1 may just have found it in Nevada.

And if it now has Vegas, does it still need Monaco too?

Against: Drivers can still make the difference

Traditional drivers’ circuits? Tracks where the drivers can overpower the natural limitations of their machinery to gain a crucial edge?

You can count them on one hand these days: Spa, Suzuka, Monaco.

Venues of this nature should be cherished, not derided, for it is these places where racing drivers are tested the most and rewarded most handsomely.

Exhibit A? Rewind back just 12 months to Max Verstappen’s lap for pole position and that wall-skimming final sector, which entered the realms of legend overnight.

Spa and Suzuka both have their merits, of course, yet perhaps only Monaco could inspire that sort of performance, pushing a driver to take such extreme levels of risk.

The emphasis on the driver makes Monaco fertile ground for underdog tales too and Esteban Ocon’s podium from third on the grid in a middling Alpine stood as one of the most astonishing results of the F1 2023 season.

Remove Monaco from the calendar and you take away the reason the drivers do this.

Against: A crucial link to F1’s rich history

There is a famous clip on the internet of Graham Hill describing a lap of Monaco in 1968.

With that glint in his eye, the original Mr Monaco talks of the obligation to enter Casino Square with “a great flourish” (to please the crowd, of course), chuckles at the insanity of “hurtling into this black hole” on the approach to the tunnel and urges caution under braking for the Tobacconist corner.

With a couple of exceptions towards the end of the lap, the layout is unchanged from the days Hill won five Monacos in seven years.

These are the very streets once graced by Hill, Fangio, Moss, Clark, Lauda, Senna and, long before some of those names, the likes of Tazio Nuvolari and the leading racers of the pre-war era.

There is something – quite a lot actually – to be said for that, especially so at a time F1 is gradually drifting from its traditional heartlands and races like Monaco and Spa come under increasing threat.

It is a source of frustration, then, when today’s drivers – all too cool for school – shrug their shoulders at the end of 78 laps and dismiss the Monaco Grand Prix as boring and we hear the World Champion radioing in mid-race to air his regret that he didn’t bring a pillow.

A wise man once said that while racing drivers of previous eras did not know if they would still be alive by the time the chequered flag dropped, the stars of today don’t know they’re born.

They would be well advised to remember that whenever they have the privilege to race on the streets of Monaco, they are standing on the shoulders of giants.

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