FORMULA ONE heads to Monaco this weekend but there is a distinct feeling this once jewel-in-the-crown event has lost some of its lustre.
The race in Monte Carlo has always been known for the glitz, the celebrities and the nostalgia, but behind the scenes it was actually the place where all the big money deals were done.
The Monte Carlo GP is at very real risk of being axed by F1 owners Liberty Media
Lewis Hamilton and Co may not be racing around the iconic Monaco track for much longer
Sponsors loved it and so too did the teams as it gave them their networking opportunities in such an opulent setting.
Multi-million dollar contracts were agreed over dinner at the Café de Paris and so, F1 always retained the race on the calendar, despite the track being out-dated and frequently responsible for producing boring races.
It remained simply because it was Monaco.
But the landscape in F1 has changed a lot in a short space of time under owners, Liberty Media.
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It has become quite clear that Liberty are now earmarking new races for those corporate jollies.
You only need to look back two races to the Miami GP and how that was an F1 trade show, rather than a race, designed to lure in new partnerships and sponsors.
Add into the mix the race in Las Vegas next year, which promises to be a similar event designed not necessarily for fans, but for business opportunities
On top of this, Miami and Vegas have the capacity to welcome those high-flyers, offering them a plentiful choice of hotels and eating establishments.
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Monte Carlo cannot do that.
Hemmed in between the south of France and the Mediterranean Sea, I spoke to a senior account manager who looks after one major sponsor.
They said they were struggling to accommodate their guests, with many considering not attending due to the standard of accommodation that was available – basically residents renting out tired apartments for the weekend for ridiculous sums.
The reality is that as F1 enjoys its boom and the demand for tickets, it has now outgrown Monte Carlo, which is now longer fit for purpose.
F1 has physically outgrown the space around the harbour as the motorhomes have grown bigger over the years.
So much so there is a real danger of people toppling over the harbour edge and into the sea.
Monaco’s situation becomes even more precarious when you consider they do not pay any fees to F1 for the rights to host a race.
The likes of Saudi Arabia and Qatar are stumping up $50million each time F1 races there and Monaco’s non-contribution to the coffers at F1 has not gone unnoticed.
With the calendar currently limited to 24 races per year, it is not inconceivable to see the Monaco GP struck off, maybe making a return every other year as part of an agreement with other historic tracks, such as Spa or Imola.
The iconic, historic race in Monaco is potentially at risk of being cut from the calendar
SPEAKING of falling out of favour, it was a bit of a surprise for F1 to rather publicly criticise the Spanish GP organisers for their poor handling of the event.
Parking was a particular issue leading F1 to take the unprecedented move of naming and shaming.
A statement said: “The huge number of fans at this event both inside and outside the circuit created the traffic issues for the fans.
“We have made the promoter aware that this is not acceptable and must be fixed for next season.”
IN FINE NYCK
CURIOUS timing or a brilliant piece of contingency planning by Mercedes to allow Nyck de Vries to take part in a practice session for Williams in Barcelona?
The Dutchman is the current Formula E world champion and Mercedes reserve driver.
He impressed by beating regular Williams driver Nicolas Latifi.
But why did they allow Williams to borrow him just before the Monaco GP?
Could it be that they fear Lewis Hamilton could be DISQUALIFIED from racing in Monte Carlo due to his piercings, which he won’t remove?
If Hamilton cannot race in Monaco, then surely De Vries, who lives in the principality, will get the nod to replace him.
So perhaps it was good to get him some early practice.
LANDO NORRIS has been diagnosed with tonsillitis and now faces a few days of rest ahead of the Monaco GP.
Luckily, the McLaren driver now lives there, so he will get some extra time in bed and should be fine to race at the weekend.
NEXT STEP FOR JAMIE?
I CAUGHT up with Jamie Chadwick in Barcelona where she won her fifth race in a row in the women-only W Series.
Surely, an F3 or F2 team must offer her a chance soon to show what she can do?
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JONATHAN REA set a new record for the longest winning career in WorldSBK after his victory in Portugal at the weekend.
Victory in the Tissot Superpole Race on Sunday ensured he now holds the record for the longest time between his first and latest win in the series.
The 35-year-old’s first win in WorldSBK came back at Misano in 2009 and his latest at Estoril means his success has spanned 12 years, 11 months.
That beats the previous record held by Noriyuki Haga by a single day.