Capturing The Magic Of Monaco

The trouble with writing a blog about Monaco is how hard the place is to put into words. All I know for sure is that every year in the fourth week of May my heart aches for the Principality in the south of France, the jewel in the Formula One crown that is unlike any other sporting event in the world.

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This is the one race of the year where the build up on BBC or Sky’s Formula One coverage is equally must-see viewing as the race itself. I have always loved that the paddock is so crowded that the television crews are forced to set up base on a boat in the harbour. Over the years BBC and before them ITV have always done a great job of capturing the glamour and the spectacle of this unique event. In 2007, the year I was lucky enough to go, ITV used a Casino Royale inspired Lewis Hamiton meets James Bond introduction to highlight the “millionaire’s playground” feel of the place.

Since then, BBC have had Jake Humphrey, Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard arrive at the circuit by helicopter, boat, classic car and hilariously had them all stand uncomfortably close together in a lift at the Hotel de Paris last year, only to reveal that they were in a vast cabin, prompting DC to muse “why do we have to stand so close?”

So how did they match that introduction this year? Well, they began with a clip of Coulthard and Humphrey on a boat, discussing how this year the racing could introduce itself after the season began with five winners from five races with a fair chance of their being a record six from six. This was all very well until the camera panned round to see Jordan wearing a scuba diving mask and wetsuit, in a pool with a collection of beautiful women. It seems the BBC have acknowledged the do not have the budget of rivals Sky, but have kept their sense of humour and also played clips from previous years, sending the message “hey Sky whatever you try, we have been there, done that and still have Eddie Jordan in a silly shirt”.

Sky have definitely gone for quantity this year rather than splashing out on gimmicks or novelty introductions, but then they do not have the same characters in their presenting line up. They have had editions of the “F1 Show” each day this week, which is at best average and full of filler material. Having said that, they have shown full re-runs of the last five Grands Prix every night this week, starting with 2007 on Monday, which has been great fun to come home to after work each day.

This year’s race day introduction for the BBC was also fun, featuring “the life of a Pirelli tyre” as a tyre was seen all around Monte Carlo locations including playing roulette in the Casino at Casino Square, implying that this year’s Pirelli tyres have made Formula One a lottery. This was also a nod to the 1996 BBC introduction which featured a tyre racing around the first half of the Silverstone track whilst the Chain, of course, played in the background. The BBC also this year used an appropriate clip of “Beautiful Dirty Rich” from Lady Gaga’s 2008 first album “The Fame”. It seems that Monaco in May is the one time and place where being unashamedly rich and glamorous is completely acceptable and even celebrated.

Tracks such as Abu Dhabi and Singapore would kill to have half the prestige that Monaco does, but of course they never will. At least those two have come closer than Valencia, which now seems unnecessary as a third street circuit on the calendar.

By far the best thing any broadcaster has done at Monte Carlo so far is the BBC’s post-race F1 Forum show from the Red Bull Energy Station super-yacht in 2010 and 2011. This yacht is so huge it has its own swimming pool, which became the focus of one of the funniest pieces of live television ever. Eddie Jordan was invited by Humphrey and Coulthard to go and interview 2011 race winner Sebastien Vettel and team boss Christian Horner over by the pool. Inevitably the Irishman ended up in the drink, along with a DC protesting loudly about his light coloured trousers!

I think my dream job would be to organise the television and broadcasting production of the Monaco Grand Prix. Everywhere you look there is something (or someone) beautiful and/or mind-blowingly fast and close to the barriers. It fascinates me every year as to how the broadcasters come up with new ways to present the magic of Monaco. Very little has changed over the decades yet each year it is encapsulating to watch and brilliant that you can pretend you’re there (even if the main effect of the coverage is to wrench my gut that I cannot be there this year – I wrote a similar blog about exactly this a year ago!)

I have genuinely always felt like this too. As a child I would become obsessed with the Monaco Grand Prix coverage each year and dazzled by the magic of this street circuit around the most beautiful harbour with barriers oh-so-close on either side. There was a postcard of the track layout on my wall and I was fascinated by the twistiness of the corners, down the hill around the old Loewes Hairpin, around the swimming pool and Tabac, up Beau Rivage to Casino Square… The racing has never been particularly wonderful due to the lack of overtaking at the track – only sixteen overtakes last year, and let’s not forget Coulthard’s McLaren being stuck behind Enrique Bernoldi for fifty-odd laps in 2001, the year before he won. And yet it is always hypnotic and the drivers place more importance on winning this race than half the others put together. Maybe my personal obsession began when Ayrton Senna won for McLaren at Monaco on the day I was born.

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