Living Legends: The 2024 Monaco Historic Grand Prix Race Report

The Monaco F1 Grand Prix always takes place at the end of May, but for many, the Historic GP, which occurs two weeks prior, is the highlight of the motoring calendar. As Monaco transports itself back to the golden era of F1, drivers roar through the streets in legendary championship-winning machines. The Rake was on hand to report.

Living Legends: The 2024 Monaco Historic Grand Prix Race Report

Following its last showing in 2022, the biannual Historic Grand Prix of Monaco returned to the principality last weekend with one of the most impressive displays of classic racing machinery yet. It’s one of the highlight events of the motorsport calendar, with the three-day-long affair seeing a number of historic cars taking to the tarmac as spectators looked on from grandstands, balconies and in true Monaco style, yachts. 

There are now eight classes that compete, starting with pre-War machines and working through the decades up to the newest, 1981-1985 Formula 1 - 3-litre class. The focus is on Formula cars, given Monaco’s history with the category, but sports cars feature also, with the front engined 1952 - ’57 class proving popular. 

The modern-day Monaco Grand Prix always takes place at the end of May, but for many, the Historic GP, which occurs two weeks prior, is the highlight. It’s not difficult to see why. A spectacle that harks back to racing’s various golden eras, it’s a treat both for those who experienced the cars the first time around, and for newer fans who yearn for a taste of heritage. From the pre-war cars up to the mid ‘80s racers, these are far simpler machines than today, with less regulations, less technology and far less safety. 

The event followed a traditional race weekend in that there was practice on the Friday, qualifying on Saturday and the races taking place on Sunday. But there were some added treats thrown in for good measure. A highlight of the weekend was a demonstration in honour of the great Ayrton Senna, who lost his life thirty years ago at Imola in ’94. Five of his most notable vehicles went around the streets of Monaco, including a McLaren MP4/5B, A JPS-liveried Lotus 97T, a Formula Ford, a Ralt Formula 3 car and the three-time champion’s go-kart. His nephew and ex-F1 racer Bruno Senna drove the McLaren. It’s always a poignant moment when Bruno Senna drives one of his uncle’s cars, with his similar yellow helmet looking just right next to the Marlborough livery. 

Bruno began racing at 6, with Ayrton mentoring him and even building him a karting track at his home in Brazil so he could learn his craft. He raced in F1 from 2010 - 2012, and later won the 2017 World Endurance Championship in the LMP2 class. Today he’s an ambassador for McLaren, and it was only fitting that he drove his uncle’s 1990 car, in which Senna won the Monaco Grand Prix of that year, as well as the World Championship. 

Alongside Bruno at the Monaco Historique was Eddie Irvine, who showcased the very car in which Senna won the Formula 3 in 1983 after a closely fought battle with Martin Brundle. Senna had his own issues with Irvine at times, and even famously punched the Northern Irish, ex-Ferrari F1 racer after he chose to unlap himself in Suzuka in ’93.  For his parade lap in the F3 car, Irvine wore his own Senna tribute helmet alongside his old Jaguar race suit and a TAG Heuer Monaco on the wrist for good measure. Irvine always looked up to Senna, and used to race with a similar yellow and green striped helmet before changing to orange later in his career.

There was plenty more to look at on the weekend. Soon to be ex-Red Bull designer Adrian Newey raced his own Lotus 49B, doing well to finish fourth in the F1 3-litre 1966 - 1972 class. Newey’s position in F1 is still up in the air, with confirmation of whether he chooses to continue in the sport not yet confirmed. His pace in the Lotus showed there’s always a second career as a historic racer on the cards. Elsewhere, Charles Leclerc was floating around the paddock, opting not to drive following his crash in the 2022 Historic Grand Prix. Leclerc was born in Monaco and lives just down the road, giving him more licence than most to attend the weekend. 

Aside from the professional drivers and famous names that formed much of proceedings, many racers that make up each grid are ‘gentleman drivers’. They are managing directors and CEOs of various businesses, well-do-do adventurers and, often, aristocratic enthusiasts who own the vehicle they’ve entered alongside many others. A couple of the races were marred by multiple crashes, which caused red flags and disappointments for fans. There are plenty who have attributed these crashes to the relative lack of experience of some of the competitors. There might be an element of truth there. But if it wasn’t for these drivers, many of these cars, which are museum pieces in their own right, would stay locked away in warehouses. The fact they are being driven at all is cause for celebration, which is something Monaco and the Historic Grand Prix does in spades. 

Discover The Motoring Edit

Photo courtesy of Automobile Club de Monaco.