Monaco: Glitz, Glamour, Gumption
When you think Formula One, you think Monaco. As high-powered and sophisticated as the cars that will compete in Round 6 of the FIA Formula One World Championship, so too are the people and their accoutrements which descend upon the smallest and most densely populated country in the world. Yachts line the harbor and exquisite luxury and sports cars line the roads.
Organized racing within the confines of Monaco began in 1929 when Anthony Noghes, son of a wealthy cigarette baron, proposed a grand prix through the streets of Monte Carlo. On April 14, the inaugural Monaco Grand Prix was held, and it was won by William Grover-Williams in a Bugatti. In the 74th Monaco Grand Prix that will take place May 29, the same basic layout crafted by Noghes will challenge today’s Formula One drivers.
Challenge is the key word, for there is no more challenging venue than Monaco. The 78-lap race around the 3.340-kilometer (2.075-mile), 19 turn street circuit features many elevation changes and the tightest corners on the series’ 21-race calendar. It also lays claim to having the only tunnel in Formula One, which forces drivers to adjust their eyes from glaring sun to shade every lap.
Monaco is the shortest circuit in Formula One and it is home to the sport’s slowest corner – the hairpin turn six – which drivers navigate at a pedestrian 50 kph (31 mph) while in maximum steering lock. It’s why three-time Formula One champion Nelson Piquet said racing at Monaco was “like trying to cycle around your living room”. Despite being the shortest track, Monaco is the longest Formula One race in terms of time and, if hampered by wet weather, it will certainly go to its full, two-hour time limit. As result, the glitz and glamour of Monaco is juxtaposed by the gumption it takes to navigate a street circuit that is nearly 90 years old and lined with menacing Armco barrier.
Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez have six Monaco Grand Prix starts between them – four by Grosjean and two by Gutiérrez. Grosjean’s best result was a point-scoring eighth in 2014 and Gutiérrez’s best was 13th in 2013.
As drivers for the first American Formula One team in 30 years, Grosjean and Gutiérrez will enjoy a high profile in the United States as Monaco kicks off a cavalcade of racing that ensnares race fans from early morning to late at night.
The Monaco Grand Prix is broadcast live by NBC beginning at 8 a.m. EDT/5 a.m. PDT. It is followed by the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, which rivals the Monaco Grand Prix in terms of prestige. It is broadcast by ABC beginning at 11 a.m. EDT/8 a.m. PDT. Then, after 1,065 kilometers (662 miles) of racing in Monaco and Indianapolis, the longest race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule begins – the Coca-Cola 600. This 400-lap race around the 1.5-mile (2.414 kilometer) Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway totals 600 miles (966 kilometers) and lasts nearly five hours. It begins at 6 p.m. EDT/3 p.m. PDT on FOX. If you’re a motorsports fan, your cup runneth over, and all the racing action from each locale can be seen on free, over-the-air television.
For Gene Haas, founder and chairman of Haas F1 Team and co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the sun will literally rise and set on his racing endeavors.
Haas F1 Team will start this ultimate day of motorsports aiming for point-paying finishes that will bolster its fight in the constructor standings. It’s currently in sixth place, four points behind fifth-place Toro Rosso and eight points ahead of seventh-place Force India.
Meanwhile, Stewart-Haas Racing heads into Charlotte leading the championship standings with driver Kevin Harvick, who brought Haas his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in 2014, bookending the title Tony Stewart delivered in 2011. And just as Grosjean and Gutiérrez carry the colors of Haas Automation in Formula One, Kurt Busch does the same for Haas Automation in NASCAR. Currently third in the championship standings, Busch seeks his first win of 2016 and the 28th of his career. Harvick, Stewart and Busch will be joined in the Coca-Cola 600 by teammate Danica Patrick, NASCAR’s most successful female driver.
It’s an intense day, which ratchets up immediately when 22 Formula One drivers take the green from a standing start and barrel into turn one at Monaco. It’s game on after that, and for Gene Haas, it doesn’t relent until the sun comes up the next day.