🏎Monaco Grand Prix Preview
QUOTE OF THE DAY
I hate Monaco. It’s like riding a bicycle around your living room.
—Former Formula One (F1) driver and three-time World Champion, Nelson Piquet, on the challenges of one of the world’s most difficult racing circuits. He was just mad to never have won the Monaco GP in his 14-year career.
🇲🇨 The backstory
Nestled along France’s Mediterranean coast, Monaco is the second-smallest country in the world (behind the Vatican) and covers less than one square-mile of land (the whole country could fit inside NYC’s Central Park with room to spare). What it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in wealth and glamor.
- Known as the “billionaires’ playground,” Monaco is famous for its high GDP, low taxes, plethora of ultra-rich citizens, movie stars-turned-royals, the Grimaldi family curse, the Monte Carlo Casino and, of course, the Monaco Grand Prix.
F1’s Monaco Grand Prix (GP) is one of the world’s most prestigious sporting events. As one of three races that make up the unofficial Triple Crown of Motorsport — along with the Indy 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans — the Monaco GP actually predates F1 with the first race held in 1929. F1 was formed in 1950.
- For a refresher on all things F1, check out our F1 Sunday Scroll from the beginning of the 2021 season here.
🏎 The race
We know what you’re thinking: “How can a country the size of my backyard fit an entire F1 race track?” And the answer is, it can’t. Instead, the race takes place on the tight, winding roads of Monaco itself.
Before we get further into it, we should lay the cards on the table: the race itself can be incredibly boring. Because of Monaco’s typically narrow European streets, there isn’t a whole lot of room for passing or legitimate racing.
- And the race doesn’t have any special points or trophies up for grabs either. F1 drivers earn points collectively throughout the season, and winning the Monaco GP is worth just as many (25 to be exact) as any other race on the schedule.
What makes the Monaco GP so special?And what makes completing it one of the top accomplishments for any race car driver? It’s the high level of technical skill needed to finish one of the most challenging circuits in all of motorsport.
- F1 drivers are here for a personal challenge, a place in the history books and the ever-elusive bragging rights.
🏁 The circuit
Every corner on the Monaco track has a name and a story. Here are a few of the most memorable ones:
- Loews Hairpin: A tight 180° turn, also known as the Fairmont Hairpin because of its location by the hotel. It’s the slowest corner in any F1 circuit, with drivers dropping to 30mph (50km/h)...but, uh, that’s still fast.
- Tabac: Named for a tobacco shop along the road (super original), this corner is the site of an infamous wave that covered the track and caused a multi-car pile up during the 1950 event.
- Nouvelle Chicane: Formerly known as Chicane du Port, Italian driver Alberto Ascari entered this harborfront, two-corner combo a little too quickly during the 1955 Monaco GP and ended up...in the harbor.
👍 The highs
Some of F1’s best moments came during the Monaco GP. One of F1’s all-time greats, Graham Hill, earned the nickname “Mr. Monaco” in the 1960s after he won five Monaco GPs in seven years.
In 1982, the event was dubbed “The Race No One Wanted to Win,” when the leader changed four times in the last three laps (exciting!). And the 1992 event, which saw Ayrton Senna battle Nigel Mansell right to the end, is still widely considered the best ever.
- It was Senna who was able to top “Mr. Monaco’s” win streak, with six wins in seven years before his tragic death during a racing accident in 1994.
👎 The lows
It’s not always spectacularly glamorous. The Monaco GP has seen plenty of accidents and has claimed one life: Lorenzo Bandini’s. He was killed after losing control of his car on the 82nd lap (of 100) in the 1967 event.
- In 1966, only four cars finished the race after a string of accidents and mechanical failures, and in 1996, only three of 21 cars made it through the day’s wet conditions to the finish line, marking the fewest finishers in an F1 race on record.
- Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Räikkönen hit a personal low in 2006 when his car failed on his 50th lap. He made the most of it though, walking to his yacht in the marina instead of back to his team’s paddock to watch the rest of the race with his friends. Power move.
🤩 The celebrities
Formula One is one of those sports that non-F1 athletes, like Serena Williams, love to watch, and the Monaco GP is frequented by celebrities and royalty. Here are a few of our favorite celeb appearances over the years:
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback (QB) Tom Brady: Before he tossed the Lombardi Trophy between boats this year, the Super Bowl-winning QB made a touchdown-worthy pass to driver Danny Ricciardo between yachts.
- Game of Thrones: The GoT stars took a break from car-less Westeros to live it up in Monacoin 2018, and
Jaime LannisterNikolaj Coster-Waldau even took a spin around the track.
- Monaco’s royal family: The Monaco GP runs under the patronage of the Monegasque royals, meaning it’s the only F1 trophy presented by legit royalty every year. Fancy.
👀 How to watch
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton will be lookingfor his fourth win of the season and 99th of his career when the Monaco GP starts today at 9 a.m. ET, but Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen will be hot on his tail, chasing his first victory in Monaco. In case you miss it, we’ll let you know who wins in tomorrow’s newsletter.
Kentucky Derby winner fails drug test
🏇Horse racing: Recent Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit failed his drug test. Yes, the horse. The American thoroughbred owned by Bob Baffert is at risk of having his title revoked, in what was Baffert’s record seventh win. Baffert has been banned from Churchill Downs (the Derby’s venue) while investigations continue.
- This isn’t the first time Baffert has been his winning horses, with at least 30 in his career. Maybe the regulators will go after him and the law can get involved about the animal abuse?
🏎 Formula One: To absolutely no one’s surprise, Sir Lewis Hamilton won the Spanish Grand Prix yesterday, thanks to some sneaky strategy from his Mercedes team. F1 is on hiatus until the May 23rd Monaco Grand Prix, so while you wait, check out the latest podcast episode featuring the first-ever female F1 team principal, Monisha Kaltenborn.
🥌 Curling: Switzerland won the World Women’s Curling Championship yesterday, earning a spot in next year’s Olympics. Meanwhile, Team USA won the bronze and Team Canada earned an Olympic berth.
⛳️ Golf: A couple of longtime droughts ended in the golf world this weekend. Former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy yesterday, his first win since November 2019, while Ariya Jutanugarn in her home country. It marked her 11th career victory, but the first in 1,015 days (almost four years!).
The GIST's Quick Hits - US (April 15, 2021)
⚽️USWNT: Ahead of Tuesday’s impressive 2–0 victory over No. 3 France, the USWNT picked up a big win off the pitch Monday when a a partial settlement over working conditions, paving the way for players to and keep up the fight for equal pay. .
🎓🏐🤸♀️College: The NCAA volleyball championships continue today, highlighted by 2019 runner-up and No. 1 seed Wisconsin taking on Webster State at 7 p.m. ET. And with all games, we’re finally set for the rest of the tourney. About damn time.
- There’s more college sports where that came from. The semifinals begin tomorrow with eight teams competing for the title. Flip on over to ABC at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday for the finals.
⚽️NWSL: Chicago Red Stars owner/ESPN host Sarah Spain and NJ/NY Gotham FC general manager Alyse LaHue were fined yesterday for their tweets in support of Red Stars defender Sarah Gorden, who, along with her boyfriend, was after last week’s season opener.
- Why the fine? The league had issued a memo asking front office members not to comment on the investigation of the situation. Hmm...time to walk , NWSL.
🏎NASCAR: Watch out Ricky Bobby, Jennifer Jo Cobb is coming for you. The 47-year-old announced that she’ll make at Talladega Speedway’s GEICO 500 on April 25th. As long as she figures out , she’ll do great.
The GIST's Quick Hits - US (March 29, 2021)
🏎Formula One: Lewis Hamilton is back on top...just as we expected. The reigning F1 world champ held off a pushy Max Verstappen to open the season with a win at the Bahrain Grand Prix yesterday.
- ICYMI, there’s still plenty of time to read yesterday’s (and watch Netflix’s F1: Drive to Survive) to get caught up before the next race: the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on April 18th.
🏒Hockey: The NWHL finally finished their Isobel Cup championship over the weekend, just a month after their already-shortened season was halted due to COVID-19 entering their Lake Placid bubble. The Boston Pride won 4–3 over the Minnesota Whitecaps on Saturday night for the league’s second title. That’s something to be proud of.
⛸Figure skating: Is it too soon to call Nathan Chen the GOAT? He won his third straight men’s singles title at this weekend’s ISU World Figure Skating Championships, extending his that dates back to the 2018 World Championships.
- On the women’s side, the Russians swept the podium, but Americans and Bradie Tennell earned Olympic berths with their performances.
⚽️Soccer: In some not-so-great, and actually kind of surprising news, the US men’s under-23 team lost their Olympic qualifier 2–1 to Honduras yesterday, meaning we won’t have representation in Tokyo in men’s soccer. Guess the USWNT will just have to carry the hopes and dreams of America...as per usual.
🏎Formula One preview: If you ain't first, you're last
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"There's nothing wrong with the car except that it's on fire."
— Recently-passed F1 commentator, broadcasting legend Murray Walker. Did we mention Formula One is dangerous?
🏎 How it works
Formula One, better known as F1, is the highest level of car racing in the world. While NASCAR enthusiasts may disagree, comparing the two is like apples to oranges. If NASCAR were a marathon, F1 would be a sprint. A really sleek, glorious, international sprint.
F1 drivers usually get their start in go-karting at a pretty young age (we’re talking grade school) and then work their way up through various feeder systems to reach the top.
- Unlike other sports, where hundreds or even thousands of athletes can “go pro,” there are only 20 active F1 drivers per season (plus a few reserves as needed), making it one of the most difficult sports to break into.
- There are 10 teams in F1 and each team fields two drivers. Part of what makes the sport so unique is that teammates compete against each other. Given they’re driving the same car and mostly have the same resources, teammate rivalries are often very intense.
The F1 season typically runs from March to December, with around 23 races — called Grand Prix — held across five continents. Drivers normally practice on Friday, qualify for starting positions on Saturday and race on Sunday.
- There are two trophies up for grabs every season. Drivers earn points based on how they finish in races, and the driver with the highest accumulated score over the season wins the World Drivers’ Championship.
- Teams also earn points by adding both of their drivers’ points together. The team with the highest combined score takes home the World Constructors’ Championship.
⚙️ The engineering
The “formula” in Formula One refers to an FIA-mandated set of rules that all teams must follow when constructing their cars, and teams employ hundreds of engineers and mechanics to ensure their two cars are the best they can be, while also fitting the formula.
- Each F1 car needs an engine and a gearbox (amongst many, many other things), but, because of costs and complexities, some teams can’t engineer or build these parts themselves. Instead, they’re allowed to purchase from other teams.
- Only four teams have the capacity to build engines — Mercedes, Renault, Ferrari and former team Honda — so Mercedes, for example, supplies engines to McLaren and Aston Martin...at a price. The average F1 car costs about $12 million, and a large portion goes to the engine.
And the cost of the car is only a fraction of the team’s annual operating budget. Given that some operating budgets were closer to $400 million (!!!) in recent seasons, the FIA implemented a budget cap for the first time this year, ensuring teams don’t spend more than $145 million (though there are notable exceptions to the rule) in an effort to level the playing field.
- This is a huge step forward in helping teams that don’t have a stupid amount of money (like Williams and Haas) to compete with the Ferraris and Mercedes of the world.
💪 The athletics
Now back to the “I could do that!” thing we mentioned earlier. No offense, but no, you couldn’t. F1 cars can hit a max speed of 360km/h or 223mph, meaning throughout a 90-minute race, drivers deal with similar G-forces to astronauts in a rocket launch.
- The brakes on an F1 car are so intense that they can literally pull tears from a driver’s eyes. And if that’s not enough, the average driver loses around 10lbs per race. Who needs Jenny Craig when you have a fast car?
Drivers must have particular body attributes and skills to fit the F1 mold: slim but muscular, not too tall, ridiculously strong necks and insanely quick reflexes. Because of that, F1 drivers have one of the weirdest training regimens in sports. It’s not for the faint of heart.
🤩 The big stars
Sir Lewis Hamilton, Team Mercedes: Arguably the biggest name in F1, the Englishman is looking for his fifth consecutive and record-breaking eighth career World Championship. But he’s not just here to drive fast. Last season, Hamilton used his global platform to highlight racism and racial disparity around the world, and within his own sport.
- He’s an activist, a fashion icon, proud dog dad, singer and, above all else, the overwhelming favorite to win it all again this year.
Fernando Alonso, Team Alpine: A one-time teammate of Hamilton (it did not go well), Spain’s Alonso is an adrenaline junkie. After retiring from F1 in 2018 to pursue IndyCar, Dakar, FIA Endurance and fashion design, the 39-year-old is back in the driver’s seat — with a broken jaw — looking to win his third World Championship.
Sebastian Vettel, Team Aston Martin: The youngest of these old-timers at just 33, the four-time World Champ made the switch from his long-time team Ferrari to Aston Martin after last year’s dramatic shake-up. He’s not afraid to speak his mind, and his bromance with Hamilton is stronger than ever.
👶 The young guns
Mick Schumacher, Team Haas: Son of the GOAT Michael Schumacher, Mick is one of this season’s three rookies (alongside Yuki Tsunoda, who we love, and Nikita Mazepin, who we don’t). Michael raced as #7 (among others) during his illustrious career, so Mick chose #47 — aka “for 7” — to honor his pops.
Lando Norris, Team McLaren: Already in his third season, the 21-year-old Brit is ready to step out of the shadow of his old McLaren teammate, Carlos Sainz Jr. (who went to Ferrari), and make his own mark. But of course, he’s already made a name for himself as NBAer Jimmy Butler’s chauffeur.
George Russell, Team Williams: Russell has only been around for a few seasons, but the maturity and leadership he’s shown on and off the track earned him the title of director of the Grand Prix Drivers Association. That, and his stellar PowerPoint skills.
🤪 The troublemakers
Daniel Ricciardo, Team McLaren: The self-anointed “Honey Badger” will be joining Lando Norris at McLaren this year. As the best driver without a World Championship to his name, the hilarious Aussie has a lot to prove with his new team, but should have no problem getting along with his new teammate.
Max Verstappen, Team Red Bull: If anyone can put a wrench in Lewis Hamilton’s plans, it’s Verstappen. Another son of a former driver, Max is Red Bull Racing’s golden child, but his actions over the years and choice words during a qualifying session last season has us rooting against him.
Pierre Gasly, Team AlphaTauri: Two seasons ago, this Frenchman was demoted from Red Bull Racing to their B-team Toro Rosso, on the same weekend his best friend Anthoine Hubert was killed in a Formula Two accident. But last season, he stopped a back-to-back Lewis Hamilton win streak when he won his first-ever Grand Prix.
💥 The season
It all starts today. The Bahrain Grand Prix begins at 11 a.m. ET, and it’s the first of 23 scheduled races this season. Hamilton and his teammate Valtteri Bottas are expected, per usual, to finish first and second, but Max Verstappen will try his hardest to split the pair.
While Team Mercedes and Red Bull Racing duke it out up front, Aston Martin, McLaren, Ferrari and Alpine will battle it out to be the best of the rest. Follow the race action here, and check out the full schedule here. It’s lights out and away we go.