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Circuit de Monaco is a street circuit laid out on the city streets of Monte Carlomarker and La Condaminemarker around the harbour of the principality of Monacomarker. It is commonly referred to as "Monte Carlo" because it is largely inside the Monte Carlomarker neighbourhood of Monaco.

The circuit is used on one weekend in the month of May of each year to host the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix. Formula One's respective feeder series over the years — F2, F3000 and today GP2 — also visit the circuit concurrently with Formula One.


The idea for a Grand Prix race around the streets of Monacomarker came from Anthony Noghès, the president of the Monegasque car club and close friend of the ruling Grimaldi family. The inaugural race was held in 1929 and was won by William Grover-Williams in a Bugattimarker.


The building of the circuit takes six weeks, and the removal after the race another three weeks. The race circuit has many elevation shifts, tight corners, and a narrow course that make it perhaps the most demanding track in Formula One racing. Despite the fact that the course has changed many times during its history, it is still considered the ultimate test of driving skills in Formula One. It contains both the slowest corner in Formula One (the Grand Hotel hairpin, taken at just ) and one of the quickest (the flat out kink in the tunnel, three turns beyond the hairpin, taken at ) which perhaps sums up its difficulty.

Due to the tight and twisty nature of the circuit, it favours the skill of the drivers over the power of the cars. However, there is very little overtaking as the course is so narrow and dangerous. Racing round the course has been likened to riding a bicycle round your bathroom or, in Nelson Piquet's words, "Flying a helicopter in your living room". Prior to 1987, the number of cars starting the race was limited to 20, compared to 26 at other circuits. The famous tunnel section (running under the Fairmont Hotel, marked in grey in the circuit diagram above) is said to be difficult for drivers to cope with due to the quick switch from light to dark, then back to light again, at one of the fastest points of the course. As a result, race outcomes tend to be decided by grid positions as well as pit strategies.

Several attempts have been made to improve cramped conditions in the pit garages. In 2002, a substantial amount of land was reclaimed from the harbor to slightly change the shape of one section of the circuit; this left more space for new pit garages, which debuted in the 2003 event.

The circuit is generally recognised to be less safe than other circuits used for high profile events. If it were not already an existing Grand Prix, it would not be permitted to be added to the Formula One schedule, for safety reasons.

In January 2009, the circuit was voted top of the "Seven Sporting Wonders of the World" in a poll of 3,500 Britishmarker sports fans.

A lap of the modern day circuit

Today's track with the local streets shown
The lap starts with a short sprint up to the tight St. Devote corner. This is a nearly 90 degree right-hand bend usually taken in third or fourth gear. This corner has seen many first lap accidents, although these are less common since the removal of the mini roundabout on the apex of the corner before the 2003 event, making the entrance to the corner wider. The cars then head uphill, before changing down for the long left-hander at Massenet.

Out of Massenet, the cars drive past the famous casino before quickly reaching the aptly named Casino Square. The cars snake down the next short straight, avoiding an enormous bump on the left of the track, a reminder of the unique nature of the circuit. This leads to the tight Mirabeau corner, which is followed by a short downhill burst to the even tighter Grand Hotel hairpin (formerly known as Station Hairpin; hairpin carries name of hotel). It is a corner which has been used for many overtaking manoeuvres in the past. However it would be almost physically impossible for two modern F1 cars to go round side by side, as the drivers must use full steering lock to get around. It is so tight that many Formula 1 teams must redesign their steering and suspension specifically to negotiate this corner.

After the hairpin, the cars head downhill again to a double right-hander called Portier before heading into the famous tunnel, a unique feature of a Formula One circuit. (Only one other circuit, Detroit USA in 1982-88, featured a tunnel.) As well as the change of light making visibility poor, a car can lose 20-30% of its downforce due to the unique aerodynamic properties of the tunnel.

The tunnel.
Out of the tunnel, the cars have to brake hard for a tight left-right chicane. This has been the scene of several large accidents, including that of Karl Wendlinger in 1994, and Jenson Button in 2003. The chicane is probably the only place on the circuit where overtaking can be attempted. There is a short straight to Tabac, a tight fourth gear corner which is taken at about 195 km/h (120 mph). Accelerating up to 225 km/h (140 mph), the cars reach Piscine, a fast left-right followed by a slower right-left chicane which takes the cars past the swimming pool that gave its name to the corner.

Following Piscine, there is a short straight followed by heavy braking for a quick left which is immediately followed by the tight 180 degree right-hander called La Rascasse. This is another corner which requires full steering lock; it will be remembered for a long time as the location of one of the most suspicious maneuvers in recent Formula One history after the 2006 season when Michael Schumacher appeared to deliberately stop his car in qualifying so as to prevent Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber — who were both following and were on flying laps — from out-qualifying him. The Rascasse takes the cars into a short, adversely-cambered, straight that precedes the final corner, Virage Antony Noghes. Named after the organiser of the first Monaco Grand Prix, the corner is a tight right-hander which brings the cars back onto the start-finish straight, and across the line to start a new lap.

Technical analysis

As Monaco's street circuit demands a lot from the car, the cars are set up with high downforce, not as is popularly believed to increase cornering speeds, as many of the corners are taken at such a low speed to negate any aerodynamic effect, but instead to shorten braking times, and keep the cars stable under acceleration. The teams also use a close-ratio gearbox, as there are hardly any long straights in Monaco. Some Formula One teams use specifically designed components for this circuit:
  • Toyota's TF106B, a deeply revised version of the car that started the season, both mechanically and aerodynamically. One key change is to the front suspension geometry, aimed at improving the way the car works with its Bridgestone tires; the team struggled to get them up to working temperature earlier in the season. The connecting point for the push rod link to the torsion bars and dampers inside the chassis is now much higher. This provides an increased damping rate and allows a slight reduction in camber angle. This enables the car to better exploit its tires' potential, and improves its handling.
  • Not strictly a new feature, but a key one at Monaco. Brake wear is not a problem here. Instead the low speeds mean the issue is keeping the brakes up to working temperature. The only heavy braking points are at the chicane after the tunnel, and to a lesser extent the Ste Devote and Mirabeau corners. With a lack of temperature, brake bite becomes a problem, as the surface of the carbon brake disc becomes smooth as glass, reducing friction between the pads and the disk, hence lessening braking power. To combat this, Montoya adopted discs with radial grooves that increase the bite rate between disk and pads, increasing the average temperature of the brakes.
  • Teams will use any method at their disposal to gain more downforce at Monaco. In the 2006 race, Williams went for a simple but effective triple mid wing on the FW28's engine cover. This not only adds downforce in the centre of the car, it also helps to manage airflow passing to the rear wing, increasing its efficiency.
  • McLarenmarker also adopted a new design for Monaco, with completely different main profile and flaps to the car's front wing. The main profile now has a double curve as it extends away from the nose, with the outer extremities bending noticeably upwards. As a result the central spoon section is effectively widened, meaning more airflow over this area, greater downforce. The flaps are now much deeper, which also adds downforce. While the revised main profile is likely to be retained for many tracks, the flap changes will probably only be seen in Monaco and Hungarymarker, both high-downforce circuits.
  • Renaultmarker were another team in 2006 that made changes especially for Monaco: a slight change to the winglets on top of the sidepods for the high-downforce Monaco circuit. Their profile has a larger surface area – to generate more downforce – combined with a bigger endplate. Two horizontal slits in the endplate help to limit the increased turbulence caused by the element's enlarged dimensions.
  • The Jordan and Arrows teams tried to use new mid-wings in 2001. The Arrows wing was similar in design to a normal rear wing, but smaller and suspended above the nose cone. Jordan had a small wing suspended on a short pole just in front the driver. Both were designed to improve downforce, but, after testing them on Friday practice, the FIA banned both wings.

Deaths from crashes


  1. In the Driving Seat p. 32, Lines 8-10 Stanley Paul & Co. Ltd. ISBN 0-09-173818-0
  2. Reliant Motors Formula 1 Grand Prix Annual 1995 Page 144, Line 1 Words On Sport Ltd. ISBN 1-898351-25-2
  3. In The Driving Seat, Page 42
  4. In The Driving Seat Page 43
  5. [aerodynamics section]
  6. Toyota TF106B Retrieved 23 August 2006

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