Famous Drives: Circuit de Monaco
A Formula One racetrack with crosswalks. We ease off the gas to let the lady in the polka dot dress pass by. Some of you will have already guessed where we are: in the middle of the Boulevard Albert 1er, or in other words, at the start and finish straight of the Formula One racetrack in Monaco. Nowhere else is it this easy to drive a Grand Prix racecourse – and free of charge at that. After the Sainte-Dévote corner, the climb is steeper than it looks on TV. Beau Rivage, Massenet . . . and already we’re looking at a gathering of super sports cars in front of the casino. Our car is freshly washed, but a solemn-looking man orders us to drive on with a stern wave of his hands.
Between Mirabeau Haute and Mirabeau Bas, the Fairmont Hairpin. Here the F1 drivers shift down into first gear. A little later, the tunnel underneath the hotel. The cars reach speeds close to 300 km/h. Not us. Tabac and Piscine. The marina is on the left. Time for a heavy braking into La Rascasse. Two more rights, and the circle is closed. As impressive as the round is, it is by no means free of competition. Vespas and campers, Škoda diesel station wagons and Lamborghini Aventador SVJs, city buses and intercity coaches, all united at a snail’s pace.
A little later, the tunnel underneath the hotel. The cars reach speeds close to 300 km/h. Not us.
In Formula One, only twenty racing cars share 3,337 kilometers of track. How chaotic is that? We ask Bernd Mayländer, driver of the safety car. Mayländer completed 368 safety car missions in twenty years and immediately pulls a story out of his sleeve: “There was this strange occurrence in 2004. Before the tunnel, I had the field in my rear-view mirror. Then, suddenly, they were gone.” After a few moments of uncertainty, Mayländer saw a Ferrari slide out of the darkness with its left front wheel bent. What happened? Michael Schumacher had locked his left front tire to warm up his brakes. Juan Pablo Montoya, driving his Williams-BMW, pushed the Ferrari into the guardrails. And the wheel was off.
Our car ends its lap with all four wheels intact. We look for a parking space (got lucky), then a table at a café in the La Condamine district, not far from Boulevard Albert 1er. Got even luckier.
WHAT SHOULD I DO AT LEAST ONCE?
Order an orange juice at the Monaco Yacht Club. The princely atmosphere will cost you over fifteen euros. An one shpuld watch an onboard lap with Ayrton Senna on YouTube. Monaco doesn’t get any wilder than that!
WHAT WILL I HAVE TO DO WITHOUT?
A good lap time. For comparison: Lewis Hamilton’s best training time with Mercedes is 1:10.116 minutes. Not hours – which is what we need in our car.
“Time Is on My Side” (Rolling Stones)
“Der Spieler” [The Gambler] (Achim Reichel)