The Monaco Grand Prix has long been considered to be the jewel in the crown of F1.
Since 1955 it has been a mainstay on the schedule and only failed to take place in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The circuit includes some of the most famous parts of any F1 racetrack: Casino Square, the tunnel section and the blisteringly fast Swimming Pool section, to name three.
Monaco’s tight, twisty and punishing circuit is considered the ultimate test of driver talent. While the car vs. driver debate has lingered as long as racing has existed, Monaco is perhaps the one place above all others where a driver can make the key difference.
As such, Monaco’s qualifying session is often one of the best, most intense and most important of the season. A qualifying lap around Monte Carlo is about as unforgiving as they come. No-one knows this better than Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who grew up in Monaco and caught his bus to school at what is the final corner of the race. After taking pole position last year, he crashed out and was eventually unable to start the race.
A drawback of the nature of the circuit, and F1’s increasingly wider cars, is that the race tends to be more processional, with overtaking all but impossible at the majority of locations.
Most remarkable about Monaco is how the principality returns to normal almost as soon as track action is done, with the parts of the circuit being reopened to the public intermittently during the weekend. In the hours after the track action stops, fans can visit the bars which line the final sequence of corners and drink on the racetrack.
However, for all of its heritage and fame, Monaco no longer seems untouchable on the F1 schedule the way it once did. Monaco’s current contract expires in 2022, and its future beyond that remains uncertain, with no clear solution to make the Sunday main event more enjoyable for fans and increasing questions about its value to F1.
For years Monaco has enjoyed incredibly favourable financial terms for hosting the race, but F1’s attitudes on this are shifting fast. With F1 booming in popularity and now able to command huge fees from new promoters, leeway for Monaco is unlikely to continue.
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali recently warned it was “not enough [just] to have pedigree anymore”, and McLaren boss Zak Brown said Monaco “needs to come up to the same commercial terms as other grands prix”.
The issue of the race’s future is likely to dominate the build-up to this year’s event.
Who’s likely to win?
Ferrari squandered the championship lead at the Spanish Grand Prix but can be confident of a strong performance at the Monaco Grand Prix. The short and twisty Monte Carlo circuit should favour the Italian car as it is strongest in slow-speed corners and often struggled against Red Bull on long straights, which should not be an issue this weekend.
It seems to be the perfect opportunity for Leclerc to make amends for last year — and several weeks ago, when he crashed a historic Niki Lauda Ferrari car at the Monaco Historic Grand Prix — by finally winning his home race.
Mercedes will also be looking to build on its improved showing in Spain. The team’s upgrades appeared to solve the worst of the bouncing issues its team suffered in the first five races of the season, although they might still be a problem through some of the corners.
What are the U.S. times?
Practice 1 – Friday, May 27 – 7.55AM – ESPN2
Practice 2 – Friday, May 27 – 10.55AM – ESPN2
Practice 3 – Saturday, May 28 – 6.55AM – ESPN2
Qualifying – Saturday, May 28 – 9.55AM – ESPN2
Prerace show – Sunday, May 29 – 7:30AM – ESPN
Monaco Grand Prix – Sunday, May 29 – 8.55AM – ESPN
Postrace show – Sunday, May 29 – 11.00AM – ESPN3
Race (re-air) – Sunday, May 29 – 3.30pm – ABC