Having flown to Marseilles Airport rather than Nice – airfares and car rentals are a rip-off as airlines fill their coffers after COVID, and more so during peak periods – I face a scenic two-hour drive to Monaco, but don't suffer queues, which reduces the time delta.
As I drive down the winding roads to the principality, I reflect on an event I've attended every year since 2000 – save 2020 – and its chances of remaining on the calendar.
There are no doubts this Grand Prix is on F1's endangered list: on one hand, it's a traditional race, being the third oldest (numerically) after Silverstone and Italy; on the other, it's an anachronism from another age.
Were anybody to call F1 in this day and age and suggest this layout, in this location, and then demand retaining the TV, advertising, and hospitality rights they'd be laughed right out of the paddock. Yet that's Monaco…
The best prognosis is for the French (also endangered) and Monaco promoters to agree to rotating deals with F1 to save both Francophone Grands Prix: Paul Ricard and Monaco are but 200 kilometres apart so there are historic, geographic, and cultural fits.
Ricard could at least salvage its event and Monaco would not face any circuit build costs unless there is a race - not an ideal solution, but better than losing both historic events.
The word is Spa and Zandvoort may eventually be forced into similar deals, as could Barcelona and Portimao, particularly as first-named's deal expires this year and the second is out of contract after next year's race. Spain received a letter to jack up its act after last week's debacle – as outlined here – while tourist authorities in the Algarve are hopeful of a return to the calendar but without all the annual losses.
Once at the circuit, I follow up two main stories: The jewellery saga, which has dragged on long enough, and Lando Norris' health and whether he will be fit to race. Both are nailed quickly: despite regular assurances that the FIA is determined to stick to its International Sporting Code, another reprieve is granted as we exclusively revealed here.
I get the feeling the matter will be postponed until conveniently forgotten, while fortunately, Lando is fit to practice.
That F1 has returned to normality is proven by various evening yacht
parties – these were banned last year, with the race running under
restricted attendances and evening curfews.
In the event, I accept Pirelli's invitation, not least because it doubles as a birthday party for motorsport boss Mario Isola and PR chief Matteo Bonciani, both of whom are good friends. As can be expected, F1's tyre supplier lays on a splendid spread.
En route from yacht to the media parking garage situated under the palace, I see more evidence of a return to normality: the late-night raves in the swimming pool complex are back with a vengeance.
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I drive in early from the B&B I've frequented for many years now in Menton – situated 10kms away, virtually on the France/Italy border. Already, there is evidence of a bumper crowd: even at 8am the traffic is slow, with the jams compounded by various road closures as preparations for the day ramp up.
While talking to FIA folk, I learn that incoming President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, exclusively interviewed in-depth here,
has recruited Shaila-Ann Rao – formerly legal director of Mercedes F1
Team and special adviser to Toto Wolff – as Director in the Office of
A heavy-weight appointment indeed, one which leaves no
doubts as to the president's intentions. She will be attending most
Thereafter, I head to McLaren for coffee and to chat about Lando, where I'm introduced to Brisa Carleton, CEO of Princess Grace Foundation and Grace Influential Impact Award, who tells me about the launch of an initiative to recognise the F1 team that best demonstrates the highest commitment to positive impact through pioneering efforts in promoting diversity and inclusion, philanthropy, sustainability, and overall excellence.
On the way back, I bump into Ivan Capelli, former Ferrari driver and
Monza circuit executive committee member, who tells me he's in the
process of producing a 'biopic'.
We're joined by Mark Webber, who, too, has turned movie producer and naturally talks turns to the topic. Along comes Tom Kristensen, nine-time Le Mans 24 winner, also the subject of a documentary.
I smile wryly when the Dane apologises for interrupting: if anyone is an interloper in this hallowed company, it's me…
After all the media sessions are over, it’s time for traditional Monaco Red Bull party, held on the floating Energy Station. As always when it comes to Red Bull, the food and drink on offer is top quality, and a good time is had by all until the small hours.
F1 Podcast: Did off-track matters ruin the spectacle at the Spanish GP?
RacingNews365.com F1 journalists Dieter Rencken and Michael Butterworth discuss the Spanish Grand Prix, where Max Verstappen won a thrilling race after Charles Leclerc retired. But was the on-track action soured by a poor fan experience at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya?