Last weekend was my first Monaco Grand Prix as an accredited member of the Formula 1 media, and like any motorsport fan, I was absolutely ecstatic about visiting the one of the most prestigious racing events in the world.
The principality is everything it’s cracked up to be. The backdrop surrounding the circuit is so aesthetically pleasing you have to blink two or three times to make sure what you’re seeing is real. The sky seems brighter and the water is a shade of blue seen rarely elsewhere. Even on an overcast day the clouds surround the hills to display a sight where you feel like you’re in a video game or movie. And watching the cars take different racing lines through La Rascasse as they wrestle their way around the tight confines of the circuit is one of the highlights of my career.
It’s a place with such a high prestige that celebrities from all categories attend to mingle with the teams, enjoy the paddock club hospitality and get their face shown on TV an awful lot. The two that stood out at this year’s race was Leicester City’s Manager Claudio Ranieri and Justin Bieber, who is apparently a ‘brother’ of Lewis Hamilton. Who knew?
It’s a chance for a lot of workers in Formula 1 to let their hair down and socialise on teams’ yachts, boats and of course, the Red Bull ‘floatahome’ where the media gather at Red Bull’s motorhome in the harbor on Thursday night and are treated to a party.
You have to pinch your arm to remind yourself that you are walking on a Formula 1 circuit in the heart of Monte Carlo, where the track reopens to the public once the action has finished for the day.
Unfortunately, it’s here that I move towards a glum and defiled side to Monaco that fans not at the circuit get to see. Because when the streets reopen to the public, a dirtier side to the glitz and glamour emerges that devalues the shining gold pedestal everyone sits Monaco on.
Walking along the track with a colleague from the media centre, we headed towards where the nightlife had begun at La Rascasse, the penultimate corner of the circuit. On the inside of the corner is a nightclub which plays heavy trance music, is overcrowded and sprays compressed air and confetti to the crowd.
Now I don’t want anybody thinking I’m a grump and that no one is allowed to have a party with the wrong type of music, but the atmosphere as you walk further down towards the swimming pool complex perishes, and you’re left with what feels like a nightclub strip where girls are put on show and the track is covered in spilled, sticky beer.
The faces of the girls waving flags to add to the party environment speaks volumes of how much they’re enjoying their night as older men walk right up next to them to take photos and selfies without any permission. Some will argue that it’s work and they’re paid to do what they do, but in any case, there’s a respectful way to treat someone who is doing their job.
A well-known TV presenter in the F1 paddock went to a high profile event during the weekend, and said to a fellow journalist “it would be nice to have some men there who know how to respect a woman’s boundaries.”
This type of behaviour can be seen everywhere after the sun goes down and the parties begin. Just being in amongst the crowd we could see drunk men hassling women, grabbing them inappropriately, and in one instance, forcefully pushing a woman along the circuit.
However, amidst all of the trance DJs and overly confident men who were constantly staring down others if they even hazard a glance in their direction, were two singers who redeemed the party strip with their outstanding live performances. From an old classic “And all that Jazz” from the musical Chicago, to pop songs from Rhianna and Katy Perry, these two girls were the epitome of what the Monaco nightlife – from my perspective – should be.
As my colleague and I sat on the barriers having a drink and watching these performers showcase their talent, we found it to be a real shame to see an empty section of the track in front of their bar, as the party goers opted to line up for 30-60 minutes to get into an overcrowded nightclub with sticky floors and showgirls on stilts. Nevertheless, the girls continued on with their routine walking through and interacting with the seated crowd.
More of this, please. I’m not trying to be a snob, but surely Monaco should remain the one event on the calendar that’s not lowering itself to the basic modern partying principals of “let’s get too drunk and behave like idiots”. This argument perhaps stems from my preference to live music rather than a DJ standing behind a computer playing other artist’s music, but that’s the way an event like the Monaco Grand Prix should be showcasing itself.
Aside from this one small but bothersome subject that I’m probably in the minority worrying about, the Monaco Grand Prix was easily the best event I’ve attended thus far. I thought it would be a tall order to top the Singapore Grand Prix – another spectacular venue with beautiful backdrops and lovely people – but Monaco delivers on another scale. I’ll echo the sentiments of the thousands who have been before me; add the Monaco Grand Prix to your bucket list and experience what the principality has to offer.
Images via Josh Kruse