MONACO, Wednesday, May 23, 2001 - Like the Indianapolis 500, the Monaco Grand Prix is seeped in history, tradition, fame, legend, ambiance and prestige. Both races traditionally take place in late May, and both will be run this year on...
MONACO, Wednesday, May 23, 2001 - Like the Indianapolis 500, the Monaco Grand Prix is seeped in history, tradition, fame, legend, ambiance and prestige.
Both races traditionally take place in late May, and both will be run this year on May 27. This year marks the 85th running of the Indianapolis 500 that began in 1911 and the 59th running of the Monaco Grand Prix that began in 1929.
The challenging Monaco circuit has always been an arena where the world's greatest drivers can show their talent on one of the world's most famous tracks. Graham Hill won the race five times, while Ayrton Senna won it a record six times, including five consecutive times between 1989-93. Alain Prost has three victories.
Among the current F1 drivers, Michael Schumacher has scored four victories, while Olivier Panis, Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard have one win each. Between them, Prost, Senna and Schumacher won every race between 1984-95.
The other winners in Monaco reads like the Who's Who list not only of Formula One but also of the Indianapolis 500. Graham Hill, Jim Clark, Emerson Fittipaldi and Mario Andretti hold the distinction of winning both of the famous events. Other past winners in Monaco, many of whom also competed in the Indianapolis 500, include Jackie Stewart, Jochen Rindt, Denny Hulme and Jack Brabham.
Two former Indianapolis 500 winners are competing in this year's Monaco Grand Prix-Jacques Villeneuve, who won the "500" in 1995, and Juan Pablo Montoya, who won the "500" last year. Another former Indianapolis 500 winner involved in F1 these days is Jaguar Racing's CEO Bobby Rahal, who competed in 13 Indianapolis 500's and won the 1986 event.
Set against the glittering backdrop of Monaco's harbor filled with exotic yachts, the Royal Palace, high-rise buildings and streets filled with exotic cars, the Monaco Grand Prix is always a glamorous and prestigious event. The narrow, wall-lined track that winds through the streets of the principality allows no room for driver error. Because it is so difficult to overtake other cars around the twisting streets, qualifying well is crucially important for this Grand Prix.
This year's race, round seven of 17, will be the arena for the continuing battle for the World Championship between Schumacher, who leads the standings with 42 points, and Coulthard, who is second with 38 points.
"I always have mixed feelings about the Monaco Grand Prix," Schumacher said. "One the one hand, I think we shouldn't be racing on a track like this for safety reasons. But on the other hand, I know that this track represents a real challenge.
"At times you get very close to the barriers and you have to concentrate 100 percent whenever you are on the track. But this is a plus point. You have to get used to being so close to the walls at such high speed, especially as there are so many bumps on the track. This Grand Prix is something really special, and driving here is a unique experience that I like very much."
Coulthard also enjoys the thrill of threading a car through the narrow, barrier-lined streets at speeds up to 180 mph (290 km/h). "It is a big buzz when you are flying up the hill to Casino corner," he said. "When you go up there on the first lap flat out, and you know you are going over a rise into a blind left hand corner, you have to watch out because a little bit of the steel barrier sticks out quite late into the corner, but when you have experience here you know what to look out for.
"It's a crazy challenge, but when you get to the end of the lap and see your lap time improving, it is the ultimate feeling of reward for driving a fast car without the ability of getting away with mistakes. In other tracks we can run off, and you see us pushing the limit until we run over the curb and then we come back from there. You don't have that luxury on a track like this."
Coulthard and Schumacher will be trying as hard as they can to win Formula One's most glamorous Grand Prix on Sunday. But then 20 other drivers also will try to gain a place in the history books.