78th Monaco Grand Prix: 20-23 May 2021
The long-anticipated Monaco Grand Prix returns this weekend, with Monegasque F1 driver and heartthrob Charles Leclerc a favourite for the home crowd.
The most anticipated F1 Grand Prix of the year is back, after being cancelled for the first time since 1954 in 2020. The Monaco Grand Prix will return this weekend from Thursday 20 to Sunday 23 May, acting as the grand finale to Monaco’s racing programme. Since 1929, the race has been deemed one of the most prestigious on the Formula 1 calendar, both for its iconic route winding around the city streets and harbour of Monte-Carlo, and for its celebrity guests and lavish aura. Although the Principality oozes glamour and luxury thoroughout the year, Monaco’s narrow roads and tight corners make it one of the most rigorously demanding Grand Prix courses to compete on.
With its tight city streets, steep inclines and downhill run into hairpin turn - not to mention the infamous tunnel - the Monaco course is so gruelling that, it has been said, it would not have been granted Grand Prix status for safety concerns had it not already been a staple on the Formula 1 programme. Yet, the course has remained largely unchanged over the decades, weaving through Monte-Carlo as spectators crowd hotel balconies and polished yacht decks for a glimpse of the most prestigious race of the season.
Monaco isn’t just a favourite for the races: it’s also a favourite for the racers. Many F1 drivers call Monaco home, from Finn Mika Häkkinen to Brit David Coulthard and Brazilians Lucas di Grassi (now racing in the E-Prix) and Felipe Massa. But three of the resident drivers who will be competing against each other this year are British champion, Lewis Hamilton, who has won the Monaco Grand Prix an impressive three times already, fierce Dutch driver Max Verstappen, and the young Monegasque heartthrob, Charles Leclerc. The 23-year-old is the rising star of the Ferrari Scuderia team, and together with his 26-year-old teammate, Spanish driver Carlos Sainz, the pair make up Ferrari's youngest lineup since 1968.
After a difficult winless season for Ferrari in 2020, the team have had a better start to 2021, with Leclerc finishing in 4th position in the Spanish Grand Prix two weekends ago. However, while the romantic charm of Leclerc returning to his home turf is sure to capture many hearts, gazes might be stolen away by rival constructor McLaren's sleek new limited-edition livery, unveiled especially for this year's Monaco Grand Prix in celebration of their historic partnership with Gulf Oil.
Scuderia Ferrari currently sits in fourth place in the constuctor standings, just 5 points behind McLaren, who are represented by 21-year-old Brit Lando Norris and 31-year-old Australian Daniel Ricciardo. Ferrari Team Principal, Mattia Binotto, acknowledges that this F1 season will present a tough battle between the two teams. As quoted by Autosport.com, Binotto said, ''I'm already happy with what we managed with the progress, but as I think it's going to be a tight battle with McLaren for third place. What is important for me in the end is to show that we are capable of progressing and on that, we’ve got a good starting point.''
There is no doubt that we, along with F1 fans sitting in the dedicated Charles Leclerc Grandstand by the harbour, would love to see the Monegasque take the podium in his home country. As for the top spot, Lewis Hamilton will be looking to make it a historic four victories at Monaco, on the back of three wins out of the opening four races this season. Mercedes' Hamilton sits 14 points ahead of Red Bull's Max Verstappen in the F1 driver standings, and although Verstappen has yet to win in Monaco, F1 fans and bookies are expecting this weekend's race to be a dogfight between the two.
Changes for 2021
Even a year on from the cancelled 2020 race, the pandemic is still having a tangible effect on large events and spectator sports. In order to prevent too many spectators from gathering in close quarters, fans will not be allowed to gather in the Paddock, but the grandstands will be open at half their usual capacity. This year's official schedule does not feature the usual autograph session and Pit Lane Walk on Friday, but it remains to be seen whether these will in fact be allowed to take place in some form this weekend!
Tickets for the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix, from Thursday 20 to Sunday 23 May, can be bought through the official seller:
Automobile Club de Monaco
44 rue Grimaldi à Monaco
+377 93 15 26 24
Whether watching on TV or being lucky enough to witness this historic year in person, we wish everyone a happy race season!