Free practice in Monaco traditionally takes place on Thursday, a departure from the usual F1 race weekend format. Why is it that cars don't drive through the streets of Monte Carlo on Friday?
To find out why, we have to go all the way back to the year 1929. That year, the race was held the same week as the Feast of the Ascension, with drivers taking to the track on Thursday. As a result Friday was viewed as a mandatory day of rest. While for many years the F1 race happened the same week as the religious holiday, that is no longer a given.
Now, organisers cite various reasons as to why F1 cars aren't on the streets on Friday including supplying the hospitality industry along with a rest day for Monte Carlo residents. However the rest day no longer applies to everyone, as F2 drivers race through the streets of the principality on Friday.
The biggest reason why F1 sticks to the old format is for commercial reasons. Monte Carlo becomes the centre of the F1 universe as the harbour is filled with luxurious boats, the hospitality industry flourishes, and everyone who has a say from a business point of view settles there. Granted, things will be different in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the tradition remains.
This isn't the only aspect in which the F1 Monaco Grand Prix differs from the standard race weekend. An F1 race has to be a minimum of 305 kilometres, but in Monaco drivers complete 78 laps, which is just 260 kilometres. The pit boxes are dramatically smaller and the safety requirements are below that of modern circuits. Different rules apply in the streets of Monte Carlo, even in 2021.