The Monaco Grand Prix (French: Grand Prix de Monaco) is a Formula One race held each year on the Circuit de Monaco. Run since 1929, it is widely considered to be one of the most important and prestigious automobile races in the world, alongside the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans (informally known as the Triple Crown of Motorsport).
The race is held on a narrow course laid out in the streets of Monaco, with many elevation changes and tight corners as well as a tunnel, making it one of the most demanding tracks in Formula One. In spite of the relatively low average speeds, it is a dangerous place to race. The first race in 1929, was organised by Anthony Noghès under the auspices of the “Automobile Club de Monaco”, and was won byWilliam Grover-Williams driving a Bugatti. The event was part of the pre-Second World War European Championship and was included in the first Formula One World Championship in 1950. It was designated the European Grand Prix two times, 1955 and 1963, when this title was an honorary designation given each year to one grand prix race in Europe. Graham Hill was known as “Mr Monaco” due to his five Monaco wins in the 1960s. Brazil’s Ayrton Senna has won the race more times than any other driver, with six victories, winning five races consecutively between 1989 and 1993.
Like many European races, the Monaco Grand Prix predates the current World Championship. The principality’s first Grand Prix was organised in 1929 by Anthony Noghès, under the auspices of Prince Louis II, through the Automobile Club de Monaco (ACM). Alexandre Noghès, Anthony’s father, was founding president of the ACM, originally named Sport Vélocipédique Monégasque. The ACM made their first foray into motorsport by holding the Rallye Automobile Monte Carlo in 1911. In 1928 the club applied to the Association Internationale des Automobiles Clubs Reconnus (AIACR), the international governing body of motorsport, to be upgraded from a regional French club to full national status. Their application was refused due to the lack of a major motorsport event held wholly within Monaco’s boundaries. The rally could not be considered as it mostly used the roads of other European countries.
In order to attain full national status, Noghès proposed the creation of an automobile Grand Prix in the streets of Monte Carlo. Noghès obtained the official support of Prince Louis II. Noghès also gained support for his plans from Monegasque Louis Chiron, a top-level driver in European Grand Prix racing. Chiron thought that the topography of the location would be well suited to setting up a race track.
The first Grand Prix Automobile de Monaco was an invitation only event, but not all of those invited decided to attend. The leading Maserati and Alfa Romeo drivers decided not to compete but Bugatti was well represented. Mercedes sent their leading driver, Rudolf Caracciola, to drive a Mercedes SSK. Caracciola drove a fighting race, bringing his SSK up to second position at the end of the race, despite starting in fifteenth. The race was won by “Williams” (pseudonym of William Grover-Williams) driving a Bugatti Type 35B painted dark green (what would erroneously become referred to as British racing green).Another driver who competed using a pseudonym was “Georges Philippe”, the Baron Philippe de Rothschild. Chiron was unable to compete, having a prior commitment to compete in the Indianapolis 500 on the same day. However, Chiron did compete the following year, when he was beaten by René Dreyfus and his Bugatti and finished second, and took victory in the 1931 race driving a Bugatti. As of 2010, he remains the only native of Monaco to have won the event.
The Circuit de Monaco consists of the city streets of Monte Carlo and La Condamine, which includes the famous harbour. It is unique in having been held on the same circuit every time it has been run over such a long period — only the Italian Grand Prix, which has been held at Autodromo Nazionale Monza every year except 1980 and 1921, has a similarly lengthy and close relationship with a single circuit.
The race circuit has many elevation changes, tight corners, and a narrow course that makes it one of the most demanding tracks in Formula One racing. As of 2010, only two drivers have crashed and ended up in the harbour, the most famous being Alberto Ascari in 1955.Despite the fact that the course has had minor changes several times during its history, it is still considered the ultimate test of driving skills in Formula One, and if it were not already an existing Grand Prix, it would not be permitted to be added to the schedule for safety reasons. Even in 1929, ‘La Vie Automobile’ magazine offered the opinion that “Any respectable traffic system would have covered the track with <> sign posts left, right and centre”. Triple Formula One champion Nelson Piquet was fond of saying that racing at Monaco was “like trying to cycle round your living room”, but added that “a win here was worth two anywhere else”. Notably, the course includes a tunnel. The contrast of daylight and gloom when entering/exiting the tunnel presents “challenges not faced elsewhere”, as the drivers have to “adjust their vision as they emerge from the tunnel at the fastest point of the track and brake for the chicane in the daylight.
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