Sergio Perez, Racing Point, Monaco, 2019

Paddock Diary: Monaco Grand Prix day four

2019 Monaco Grand Prix

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A wide-eyed Sergio Perez told of his heart-stopping near-miss with two marshals during the Monaco Grand Prix. @DieterRencken brings the background stories from the F1 paddock.


Up, breakfast, then finish packing ahead of checking out of apartment, ready for 8:30am departure. Grand Prix Sunday traffic is not too bad, and the 20km journey takes an hour(ish) with a splash-and-dash refuelling pit stop. I give US journalist Dan Knutson a ride from Menton, and en route we discuss Monaco hotel prices.

I recall a hotel I’d used back in the early 2000s: during a motorsport conference in December I’d paid around 60 quid per night; a month later I used the same establishment while reporting on the Monte Carlo Rally – at double the price. For that year’s grand prix the price doubled again.

We also remark on the number of boats, both large and small, moored outside Monaco’s harbour. More than we’ve ever seen, and wonder whether they’re put off by weekend prices. There’s little doubt that not only is the harbour less full than a decade ago, but the average size of the craft seems smaller. Has Monaco lost its lure in the face of competition of glamour races in Singapore and Abu Dhabi?


Settle in at the media centre, then head for paddock. An advantage of the (oft-infuriatingly) tight Monaco paddock is folk are generally found in three main areas: in the passage alongside the harbour, on Red Bull’s floating Energy Station, or convening in the open area near the entrance stiles. Thus sources are easily found; the flip side is, though, that one is seen talking to them…

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Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Monaco, 2019I’ve assembled further intelligence on the 2020 F1 calendar, which is looking like one of the most complex schedules in F1’s history, regardless of which of the five out-of-contract events lose out in the merry-go-round.

Formula 1 Management has already indicated the new Vietnam Grand Prix will take place in April. Rumours doing the rounds in Monaco give some shape to the rest of the calendar: the season will begin in Melbourne on 15th March, the returning Dutch Grand Prix will appear in the first third of the season, Monaco will be staged on 24th May, Baku will return to its June date and Silverstone and Monza will keep their races.

To me it seems Liberty will be left with gaps in the calendar which might conveniently be filled by retaining both Spain and Mexico, even if they need to cut rates. That could make for a record 22-round schedule.


A favourite Monaco tradition: Carlos Sainz Snr, Ari Vatanen and I meet annually in Monte-Carlo (with our partners when present) for lunch. This year McLaren kindly hosted our rendezvous.

As usual, a fun time is enjoyed by all as reminisces flow over red wine from Carlos’s own winery. Some of the stories told are not printable, but Rita Vatanen gives us all a laugh by chiding Ari as he admits that ‘going too fast into a ford’ was the reason for his retirement from his last Dakar Rally. “You were always going to fast…” she scolds him.

Tim Bampton, McLaren’s head of communications kindly (and wisely) arranged a private dining area on the top floor of the Brand Centre. Thanks for hosting and joining us, Tim!

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William Storey, Monaco, 2019Nowhere is the hustle and bustle of Monaco more evident than on the grid, which is rammed. Every blue-chip guest, every VIP, every sponsor and his/her kid, every star freed of Cannes duties and virtually every pass holder not otherwise occupied during the build-up to the race gravitate towards this narrow patch of real estate, which for 30 minutes is likely the most densely packed place on the planet.

As last year, this population is boost by a grid girl and grid guy per car, bearing fan messages for each of the drivers. This is arranged by the Automobile Club de Monaco, and not Formula 1 Management, who replaced their grid girls with the FIA’s Future Stars initiative last year.


Race over: Lewis Hamilton takes his fourth win of the year, paying fitting tribute to the much-missed Niki Lauda as he does so, and cools off with a dip in the harbour front swimming pool.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Monaco, 2019For me it’s time to head for the ‘mixed zone’ for media, where all drivers outside the top three who do not have scheduled post-race media sessions are supposed to attend. Needless to say, only about half of them do, and some speak only to media from their home country before heading off.

Keep this in mind the next time you hear a driver complaining about how the media covered their races. Mario Andretti once said that 50 per cent of the money he earned was for his skills inside the cockpit, with the rest covering his outside commitments: “If you don’t want to do press work, then return half your retainer…”

One driver who can be relied upon to give considered and insightful replies (in multiple languages) is Sergio Perez. And on this occasion he has a truly hair-raising story to tell.

Exiting the pits during the Safety Car period, he was horrified to discover a pair of track workers hesitantly crossing the pit exit in front of him. “I nearly ran over two marshals,” he tells us. It must have been frightening, and when I saw the footage I immediately thought of Tom Pryce, killed at Kyalami in 1977 along with marshal Frikkie Jansen van Vuuren, who was struck as he ran across the track to extinguish a fire.

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I depart the paddock for the airport in a hurry as I’m told the traffic police have opened the roads to team trucks, causing congestion. Too late: For 30 minutes we stay parked outside the garage while trucks and fork trucks are waved through. I’d earlier heard that some F1 personnel were delayed en route to the circuit while the Porsche Supercup field travelled to grid from parking garages on the other side of Monaco…

The airport is 30km from Monaco, but so disrupted is the flow that the journey takes almost two hours despite the last half of the journey being on uncongested roads.


Check in for flight an hour later. Unlike last year – when most flights were delayed by three hours, with some colleagues spending an unscheduled night in the airport – our flight to Brussels is delayed by about 30 minutes, most of which time is recovered. I’m back home after a week away a little after 1am, but already my thoughts are turning to Canada.

2019 Monaco Grand Prix

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4 comments on “Paddock Diary: Monaco Grand Prix day four”

  1. Well I was there for Thursday practice. I can safely say best way in/out of Monaco to Nice Airport is the train via Nice St. Augustin station and a 15 min walk. Don’t use the SNCF app for the tickets though, is more reliable: also the ticket machines either have long queues or don’t work.

    The other option is the 100+ euro helicopter ;) I would never want to drive around there.

    1. Why is autocorrected to tram I’ve no clue :(

  2. Looking sharp in orange there, Dieter.

    1. +1
      I think you have just sorted out Dieter’s wardrobe out for the Zandvoort GP….
      Always good to read these insights too:-)

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