Where legends are born: The F1 Monaco Grand Prix

Forty years after Ayrton Senna made his name in Monaco, and thirty years since his passing, McLaren are running a special livery and will hope to capitalise on their recent form. Charlie Thomas cites his race prediction for the 2024 F1 Monaco Grand Prix.

Where legends are born: The F1 Monaco Grand Prix

In recent years, the Monaco Grand Prix has been criticised for its lack of excitement. Sure, the location is glamorous and the spectacle unrivalled, but the racing has hardly been gripping. The narrow streets of the Principality don’t traditionally lend themselves well to overtaking, with the current generation cars struggling more than ever due to their size. Monaco isn’t always a snooze-fest though. It’s a driver’s favourite, and is the ultimate test of skill and precision. 

When it rains, it’s less about the car and more about the driver’s intuition and feel, which over the years has made for some thrilling races. Forty years ago, the 1984 GP was one such event. A rookie Ayrton Senna made waves in his Toleman, outpacing the entire grid in the rain, dancing around Monaco’s streets on the way to what should have been his first victory. Nigel Mansell crashed in his Lotus, Niki Lauda spun after he was overtaken by Senna, and the Brazilian closed a 30+ second lead on Alain Prost before the race was controversially red-flagged. 

James Hunt, who was commentating the race alongside Murray Walker, put it best: “Senna has shown exceptional talent, and in the wet is where the talent shows… I think we are watching the arrival of Ayrton Senna. The rain is coming down even harder now, but Ayrton Senna has the same tyres that Alain Prost is running, and he’s catching Prost by something like three seconds a lap and that is a truly staggering performance. He’s not about to be World Champion this year, [but] he will undoubtedly be world champion in the future if his career continues.” Hunt wasn’t wrong. 

Twenty years later, the 2004 Monaco GP was equally action-packed. It was sunny this time as the 3.0-litre V10s screamed their way around the Riviera streets, but nearly every other lap some kind of drama unfolded. Fernando Alonso crashed hard in the tunnel, shortly before Michael Schumacher, who would win the championship that year, did the same under the safety car. Raikkonen had a hydraulic issue and Coulthard crashed out on only lap two. The Italian Jarno Trulli racing for Renault came first in what was his only Grand Prix victory, with a young Jenson Button chasing him down in his BAR-Honda, crossing the line just .497 seconds behind. Rubens Barrichello came third in the Ferrari, and only seven other drivers finished. That wasn’t the only story of the race though. In true Monaco fashion, as part of a PR stunt to promote the film Oceans 12, the two Jaguar cars ran with diamonds in their nose cones worth $300,000 a piece. The only problem? Christian Klien’s no. 15 car crashed on the first lap, losing his front wing and the diamond in the process. To this day it has never been found, absorbed into Monaco folklore forever. 

But fast forward another twenty years to 2024, and what will this weekend’s race look like? Following three years of Red Bull/Max Verstappen domination, things are slowly starting to turn and other teams are looking competitive. Chief among them are McLaren, who have found some serious pace following a spate of upgrades and Lando Norris’ victory in Miami. Can McLaren knock Red Bull off their perch this time round? Verstappen alludes that it’s entirely possible. “It’s probably not going to be our best track, just because our car normally struggles a bit over bumps and curbs”, he said on Thursday’s media day. “We did work on it a bit compared to last year. So far on most of the tracks that we’ve been to, our low-speed performance has improved a little bit, but I don’t think this is going to be a very easy weekend. But Monaco is never very straight forward even when you are supposed to have the best car… a lot of things can go right, but also a lot of things can go wrong.” 

As is usually the case with Monaco, Sunday’s results will largely come down to Saturday’s qualifying. It’s notoriously difficult to overtake, even in the wet, so if you can qualify towards the front of the pack that should guarantee a points finish. The race is set to be dry, yet there is a chance of rain for qualifying, so there may be a few surprises. Can Ferrari or McLaren claim another victory? Time will tell, but we’ll be rooting for the latter. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Senna’s passing, and his old team are paying tribute to the Brazilian with a yellow, green and blue, helmet-inspired livery and team gear. How fitting it would be for a McLaren victory at a place where Senna made his name all those years ago. 


Friday, May 24, 2024
5 pm -6 pm: Formula 1 - Free practice 2
6:45 pm - 7:15 pm: Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup - Qualifying session
7:35 pm: Track open

Saturday, May 25, 2024 
07:00 am: Track closed
10:45 am - 11:30 am: Formula 3 - Sprint Race (23 laps or 40 mn + 1 lap)
12:30 pm -1:30 pm: Formula 1 - Free practice 3
2:15 pm - 3:05 pm: Formula 2 - Sprint Race (30 laps or 45mn + 1 lap)
4:00 pm -5:00 pm: Formula 1 - Qualifying session (Q1-Q2-Q3)
7:30 pm: Track open

Sunday, May 26, 2024
05:00 am: Track closed
08:10 am - 09:00 am: Formule 3 - Course (27 tours ou 45 mn + 1 tour)
09:50 am - 10:55 am: Formula 2 - Feature Race (42 laps or 60mn + 1 lap)
12:05 pm - 12:40 pm: Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup - Race (17 laps or 30mn max.)
12:50 pm - 1:20 pm: Formula 1 - Drivers' Parade
2:20 pm - 2:30 pm: Formula 1 - Pit lane opent
2:46 pm: National Anthem
3:00 pm: Formula 1 - 81st F1 Grand Prix de Monaco (78 laps or 120mn max.)
8:30 pm: Track open