Changing tracks: Monte-Carlo

Posted on

| Written by

The blast up the hill - and the scenery - hasn't changed

Monaco has the longest unbroken run of years as a Grand Prix venue – having held an F1 race every year since 1955.

Much of the track remains the same, but there have been changes in recent years – some of which were criticised for diminishing the challenge of this unique venue.

Monte-Carlo circuit, Monaco – 1955

Length: 3.18km (1.976 miles)

Monte-Carlo circuit, Monaco – 2010

Length: 3.34km (2.075 miles)

Grand Prix racing was first held on the streets of Monte-Carlo in 1929. The Monaco Grand Prix has been a permanent fixture on the F1 calendar since 1955.

It’s a unique track which could not be replicated anywhere else – mainly due to being narrower and shorter than the minimum limits for new F1 circuits.

Its importance to Formula 1 as an event that has worldwide recognition can be gauged by the fact that not only are the venue’s shortcomings overlooked, but it is the only race where the promoters, and not Formula One Management, retain revenue from trackside advertising.

The configuration of the circuit has changed on numerous occasions since that first race. But from the climb up Massenet, around Casino, dropping down from Mirabeau to the Grand Hotel hairpin and around Portier, today’s F1 drivers trace the exact same route that Rudolf Caracciola and his rivals first did over 80 years ago.

The changes that have been made have been partly in the pursuit of improved safety and partly due to new buildings being erected in the principality.

The start line was originally on the harbour front where the swimming pool now stands. It was switched to its current location in 1963, making Sainte Devote the first corner.

La Piscine and Rascasse

In 1973 the Monaco circuit took a major departure from its original configuration to the more sinuous version we know today. The construction of a swimming pool on the harbour front forced a detour after Tabac, adding four new corners to the circuit.

From the exit of ‘La Piscine’ the drivers now arrived at a revised final sequence. The old Gasworks hairpin was gone, replaced by a tight left-hander leading into a pair of right-hand turns called La Rascasse. Another new corner, a right-hand turn taking the cars back onto the start/finish straight, was named after the designer of the original track, Anthony Noghes.

One other significant change that year altered the challenge of the circuit without actually changing its configuration. The tunnel was extended due to the building of Loews Hotel, which also gave its name to the hairpin after Mirabeau.

Sainte Devote

The first corner was originally a faster right-hander, but this was tightened in 1976. At first a barrier stood on the inside of the new corner, but in 2003 it was opened out to give drivers more room to escape the first-lap mayhem that often ensues here.

Nouvelle Chicane

Until 1985 the chicane in front of the harbour was a fast left-right flick. In qualifying for that year’s race the cars were changing lanes at 160mph and the drivers urged the race organisers to build a safer alternative.

So for the 1986 race a new concrete section was built, extending over the harbour and allowing the chicane to be tightened. Although the kerbs here have been changed many times since then – including this year – the corner is basically the same. It’s the nearest thing Monaco has to an overtaking opportunity.

New Rascasse

Several revisions were made to the circuit in 2003, mostly moving barriers to create limited run-off space. The entry to the swimming pool complex had this treatment in 1997, and six years later the exit also had its barriers moved, making the exit slightly quicker.

Also in 2003 Rascasse was altered to give the cars a faster, straighter run into a less tight corner. Not that it made it any easy for Michael Schumacher to get around it in 2006…

The pit lane exit was also changed. Although cars still have to negotiate the tricky switch onto the start/finish straight, the actual exit now extends past the first corner, giving them a safer passage onto the circuit.

The current pit complex was used for the first time in 2004. Unusually, it faces away from the start/finish straight, towards the harbour and the final sequence of bends.

Monte-Carlo circuit, 2010 Monaco Grand Prix (click to enlarge)

How F1 tracks have changed

Image (C) Mercedes

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

31 comments on “Changing tracks: Monte-Carlo”

  1. Dean Yamasaki
    14th May 2010, 17:13

    What an awesome article! Thanks Keith!

    1. You’re welcome Dean :-)

  2. Marc Connell
    14th May 2010, 17:28

    Surprised FIA haven’t put large run off areas. Remember david coulthard crash in 2008? he was just lucky there was a escape road…

    1. Indeed. I’ve always wondered how far down that road he ended up!

  3. wheres the predictions links for monaco folks? thanks

    1. it’s under ‘Articles in Full’ on the right at the minute!

  4. They killed swimming pool and St Devote, but the track is still fantastic.
    By the way, I know there had been plans back in the 70’s to extend the track: the cars were supposed to go left at Portier, go around the new loop (north of the current track), and go back into tunnel. They never used this configuration, but does anybody have information about that ?

    (and sorry for my english, I’m french)

    1. No I never heard about that before. But if you zoom in on the streets there it’s not hard to see what they were thinking off. Speed through the tunnel would be a worry, though.

      1. Wow, last night I was looking at Google Maps and thought the exact same thing. It really is the only place they could easily add to the track without changing any of the historic part. They could turn left after turn 7, get turned back and come along Avenue Princess Grace. They could put a chicance in at Portier (Portier chicane?) to keep there speed down somewhat into the tunnel.

        Seems like the only option if they ever got too many cars or if they just feel its finally time to expand a little.

        1. I don’t think that would work.

          If you go to:,7.43043&spn=0.001285,0.00284&t=k&z=19

          The road that they would go down once they turn left appears to split into 2 at the edge of the roundabout so going down there is not viable. Going left just to go round a roundabout seems pointless also. See my screenshot:

  5. Wow, excellent article!!

    But it seems Monaco track is slower now. Imagine it being reverted to the earlier “fast” config, especially turn 1 in its earlier configuration would be epic!!

  6. One of the most curious Monte Carlo’s layouts was the 1972 one. The paddock, traditionally placed between Gazomàtre and Sainte Devote, was temporarily transferred to between Chicane du Port and Tabac.

    Take a look:

    As a result, that year, and only that year, Chicane du Port was placed incredibly near from the Tabac bend.

    1. Did that end up working out? I can only imagine they would be pushed for room there!

  7. Great piece. It’s amazing to see the in-car views of cars going up to Beau Rivage knowing it is the same piece of road traveled for 60+ years by F1 cars. Dropping this race for another flat Tilke-drome in some brown expanse of Middle Eastern dirt just seems like such a bad idea. No, you can’t pass. But the fact that one is racing as much against the track itself, as the man behind, creates a constant drama no other course can approach.

  8. i would say, monaco is the only track, that even with chicanes, you don’t get the sensation to be cheated like in many others. The soul, it’s still there.
    And it’s stronger than the safety obsessed fia members’s will to do the wrong thing.

  9. You know, it seems like every single article about Monaco this year had some quip about Schumacher stopping on track.

    We know.

  10. That old configuration looks great.

    Nouvelle Chicane had to be put in, and they can’t just drive over the swimming pool, but having a final hairpin instead of Rascasse would be a marked improvement. Unfortunately, you’d have to do some demolition work to have it back!

    There’s no point trying to change Monaco anyway. It is what it is, and nothing will change that.

  11. if memory serves, anthony noghes also organized and competed in the monte carlo rally.

    here’ some movie of old men driving slowly:

    1. Thanks for those links! Marvelous stuff.

    2. Thanks also for the video links, really enjoyed watching them. Should be a good race this weekend.

  12. HounslowBusGarage
    14th May 2010, 21:33

    I’ve often wondered what it would be like if they turned left at Rascasse and continued down the quayside for another 300 m or so before turning very hard right to go behind the buildings onto the Avenue de la Quarantaine and a nice complex corner back onto the Boulevard Alber 1er (start/finish).
    It always impresses me how different the streets are outside of this week in May. You can drive around Monaco and not even suspect that it could possibly be a race track for one glorious weekend.

  13. UneedAFinn2Win
    14th May 2010, 22:59

    If, and I must distress IF, ACM ever lose the right to put on a Grand Prix, it will be more the end of Formula 1 rather than the end of racing in Monaco.
    In Rallying, they “lost” WRC status some time ago , but that had very little impact on the respect the event has among the drivers. There is no other venue in the world that has the prestige than those few hundred feet of asphalt twisting around that tiny mediterranean municipality capable of capturing the magic of man and machine. Look up qualifying laps from the 80’s with turbo engines and sticky quali-tires on youtube. Brilliant.

  14. The Monaco race will be finished at 260 km instead of 305 km due to the slowness of the circuit.I kind of liked the old pit lane ,yes it was dangerous but it was challenging. Imagine Vettel & Hamilton doing the same thing that they did in China just weeks ago.

  15. The swimming pool was not built on top of the old layout. The old layout went down what is now pit road in the opposite direction. If you watch the movie Grand Prix, you can see that the swimming pool existed before the track was altered to go around it. I think the track was moved around the swimming pool to create an actual pit road. before they would pit right on the front stretch which obviously was very dangerous.

    1. Correct. Land reclamation may have also enable them to build roads on the outside of Piscine.

  16. Keith, just a correction. The current start line is the original startline. It was moved to the harbour front (after Tabac) in 1955, then moved back to its current location in 1963. And xlr8r is correct – the old layout when down what was the pre-2004 pitlane in the opposite direction. The current pit complex was built on the 1955-1962 startline.

  17. I suddenly find myself on a rig off Norway. Anybody know how I can get online video for quali and the race this weekend? BBC tells me I’m not in UK so can’t watch iplayer.

  18. Keith – What happened to Tabac on your circuit map of the original lay out? Haha :-P

  19. Hi, been confused over a certain part of monaco circuit for years and stumbled across this site. Maybe someone can help. In pre mid 70s ish races after the hairpin with the palm trees, the cars go under/through some stone archways before heading to the tunnel under the hotel. Nowadays the cars pass under a modern looking bridge before the tunnel. What happened to the stone series of arches? Thanks.

    1. The Loews Hotel was built on top of it, making the tunnel longer. The arches were demolished, they’re not there any more. It’s now called the Fairmont Hotel although the hairpin next to it is often still referred to as Loews.

  20. Hi Keith
    Thanks for the reply. Akways wondered whadt happened to them. I think the circuit looked better with them. One more thing, what was the significance of the Tir au Pigeon which was what they built the hotel on tip off. What was it? It appears to have had some importance at some point. Google search finds very little.

Comments are closed.