It would never be allowed to take place had it been mooted in these modern times but here it is again, the annual extravaganza that was best and famously described by Nelson Piquet as like "riding a bicycle around your living room, for Formula 1 has descended on the tiny principality of Monte Carlo for the 76th Grand Prix de Monaco.

A race that is undeniably glamorous with a 'loads a money' almost vulgar attitude overtly displayed similarly by those who actually have it as well as those who wished they did.
For others that actually have to work in the pits and garages, service the cars, drive the trucks and assemble the motorhomes the glamour is not so evident but even those who hate the place seem to have a good time as there is simply no other place like it despite how other events seek to emulate it. Unique in the truest sense of the word as well as being perhaps the most polarising event of the F1 season. You either love the place or hate it and that includes the drivers.

All the discussions about track limits and penalties that should be applied to those who wander too far over the white line at track edge will be forgotten as Monaco has it's own simple solution for that problem. Walls, hard unforgiving walls of solid steel 'Armco' barriers, define the track limits. Step over the limit and that sculptured front wing is going to be the most expensive piece of art in the nearest waste bin!

This is a race that can also reach the extremes of Formula 1 by being one of the most exciting, as in 1992 when Ayrton Senna, driving a slower McLaren car on old tyres, held off Nigel Mansell driving that year's all conquering Williams with new tyres, or the most processional and boring.


The event is founded on the old glamour days of royalty mixing it with dashing young daredevil racers and lashings of dollars. Even in those heady days some races were tedious to watch. In 1962 there were only 16 cars on the grid with huge differences in performance and after more than two an a half hours of racing just six cars took the chequered flag and two of those were almost 100kms behind the winner who was a young chap named Jackie Stewart.

Qualifying well means more at Monaco than any other race and the race itself often has little or no overtaking and the speeds are slow. Conversely the drivers have to demonstrate more skill, more precision and more concentration than at any other race.
The title alone 'Monaco Grand Prix Winner' carries perhaps more kudos than any other single Grand Prix on the calendar.

On the other side of the Atlantic, a world away from the yachts and bling but equally as ostentatious in it's own way is another race, the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500.
The self proclaimed "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" and in many ways a deserved description. It is a spectacle and like Monaco it is a stand-alone event in which every driver dreams of competing in, and winning and adding his, or her, name to the greatest drivers in the sport.

Like the Monaco Grand Prix the Indy 500 is a motor race of attrition, one that demands the same level of respect as Monaco in terms of precision, skill and concentration and plain old 'race-craft'. Unlike Monaco the starting position for the 500 is relatively unimportant with the race having been won by drivers starting well back in the pack.

As at the narrow canyon that is the Monaco street circuit, to make contact with the barriers is not the preferred option but unlike Monaco where contact results in some embarrassment and relatively light damage, to make contact with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's wall, the remarkable 'SAFER' barriers (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction Barrier), usually results in a major, often life threatening, accident.

Make no mistake; each event deserves of its unique place in the respective series but each event serves also to illustrate the major differences between IndyCar oval racing and Formula 1.

The glamour, the 'Hollywood' (with the Cannes film festival taking place just along the coast) the showbiz and 'precious' nature of Formula 1 in Monte Carlo, almost eclipses the race as the main focus whereas the '500', even with as much razzmatazz as the Americans can muster, is much more about that 500 miles of racing.

The hours of build up, the marching bands, flypast, balloons, endless parades, performances of 'God Bless America', 'The Star Spangled Banner' and 'America the Beautiful' and the traditional words "Drivers, start your engines" are all as much a part of the fabric of the 500 as are the models, celebrities, harbour views with huge yachts and romantic images of the Monte Carlo skyline.


When it comes down to it and the lights go out or the flag drops, everything is then distilled to man, and woman, doing the best job they can. Keep off the walls, go as fast as you can, beat everyone else. The rules are the same.

It is unfortunate that tradition dictates that both these events take place on the same day, early this Monday morning NZ time, but at the end of the day one person on either side of the Atlantic will go down in history as the winner of the most famous race in their series.