Glamour and wealth make for an intoxicating combination

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 May, 2006, 12:00am

Glitz and Glamour. There, I've got them out of the way, the two most overused words when discussing the Monaco Grand Prix. It's not as if they're inaccurate terms, but you do wish people would consult a thesaurus once in a while.

You may have surmised from my minor outburst that the next stop for the F1 bandwagon is Monte Carlo. The luxury yachts will have already moored in the harbour and the famous old course will be taking shape.

The race in the principality really is one of the highlights of the race calendar. This may have something to do with the amount of Formula One people who live there, such as David Coulthard. It also chimes with something at the heart of F1 - money, and lots of it. I guess the event and the place need each other.

The marketing people certainly love it. Remember the Red Bull pit crew dressed as Star Wars storm troopers recently, or the diamond in the nose of the Jaguar cars? By the way, watch out for a Superman theme this year (there's a new film out).

There certainly is something about street circuits that makes the pulse quicken. Possibly it's the very unsuitability of the proposition, with the spectators closer to the action and the drivers closer to the barriers than you'd get at a racetrack.

Despite being a favourite of many, Monaco makes life a little awkward for teams. Admittedly there are new pits, which are a vast improvement on their cramped predecessors. But a narrow street circuit throws existing norms out of the window.

Qualifying becomes of paramount importance because overtaking (unless there's a blue flag waving madly) is nigh on impossible. You need to be at the front of the grid and get a good start. It's going to be a lot more difficult this year without the aid of one-shot qualifying. You really want to avoid being on the track at the same time as a Super Aguri.

The mechanics also have their work cut out. Given that most of the time the track is a public road, the circuit is a lot more bumpy than normal and so the car has to be set up with very soft suspension. But perhaps the real heroes are the engineers who turn the roads of the tiny principality into a showpiece F1 track virtually overnight.

It might be awkward, but creating a street circuit appears to be in vogue at the moment. Singapore is seriously thinking about trying to bring F1 to their slightly bigger island state. A newspaper there asked me to come up with a plan for a street circuit. I must admit that sitting with a blank piece of paper trying to find a route that would show off Singapore's stunning skyline was a lot of fun.

London has also shown enthusiasm. The sight of half a million people trying to get a glimpse of F1 cars screaming down the road during an exhibition a while back certainly gave those in charge of the capital food for thought.

There would be no shortage of landmarks to drive around, but would Londoners put up with the disruption? I assume the cars wouldn't have to pay the congestion charge.

Of course the street circuit many feel is better than Monaco is on our doorstep. The F3 race in Macau already has an impressive pedigree and history. People like Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher have graced the race on their way up through the ranks as you can see for yourself if you visit the grand prix museum there. I've covered the race and been very impressed by what I saw. Any F1 ambitions though are thwarted by the fact that the circuit is too narrow. A single F1 car would struggle to get around one particular hairpin let alone a bunch of them.

Of course Monaco has an added advantage over most others. It has glamour (there's that word again), wealth and a lack of tax. It's the sort of place F1 likes to be. After all, you can't moor your gin palace yacht at Hyde Park Corner.