This past summer I went on a cruise around the Mediterranean. There were two main reasons for going. Firstly, with six days at sea (the cruise left and returned to Southampton) I had the opportunity to really relax and catch up with myself. The second reason, was that one of the stops was Monaco.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m a bit of a sports geek. To your average sports fan there are certain events that transcend unto another level. All you have to do is mention their names and the sports geek will instinctively what that event is. Wimbledon, The World Series, The Grand National, The Superbowl, Le Mans, Daytona and so on.
Mentioning the Monaco Grand Prix to your average sports geek, is a bit like saying to a Sci-Fi geek “Do you know anything about Star Trek?” So, having the opportunity to wander around the roads that they use for the track wasn’t something that I was going to pass up.
As it was July, the first thing I noticed was how different Monaco looks in real life. The grid slots are painted on the road, and you can see the occasional bit of rumble strip on the turns, but otherwise there are no indications that you are wondering around the most famous racetrack in the world. You then begin to understand how much effort is involved in putting the infrastructure in place for the Grand Prix.
It was weird wondering by the starting line, and finding that there is a raised curb right in the middle of the starting grid. It even goes through the middle of a couple of grid slots. I even thought, for some reason, that the new pit lane was a permanent structure. How wrong was I? The only evidence of anything being there is the faded paint marks.
Even though I knew from watching the TV how cramped the circuit was, it didn’t prepare me to realise how little space there actually is. I have no idea why anyone would want to drive around Monaco in anything fast, never mind in a formula one car. Actually, I appreciated the skills that the drivers must have at going around at speed without crashing into the barriers. I still have no idea how they get around some of the corners.
The last thing I noticed were the things that you don’t see on TV. The church down by the first corner. The building on the left as you come out of the tunnel (no idea why I’ve never noticed it before, it’s massive). How La Rascasse is it’s own little island at the end of the track. It’s those little things which I’ll be thinking about the next time I watch the Monaco Grand Prix.
I can now say that I’ve been there.