Monaco has been called the casino capital of the world. It’s got a lot of wealth squeezed into just 499 acres. For reference, that’s almost five times the size of Disneyland. It’s also the oldest circuit of Formula 1, having been a track since 1929. The route is essentially the same as it was in 1929, which gives you a unique opportunity to see cars with nearly 1000 horsepower blasting around for first place. It’s also one of the few tracks where race cars get to run through the tight streets of a city.
For those of you who watch motorsports, you’re likely going to agree with me that the reason that people are drifting away from watching various races is that it doesn’t seem as exciting anymore. I think it has to do with the fact that the tracks are wide (they can usually take well over three cars at even the narrowest corner), and that the cameramen are getting pushed further away from the action. This last fact might seem trivial and stupid to you, but think about it for a second. Thanks to GoPros (I have nothing against them), automotive enthusiasts are getting used to punching in a search term into YouTube (again, nothing against it) and seeing POV videos of some motorcyclist or crazy driver blasting their way through traffic. You can put a GoPro on just about any surface on a car or motorcycle so that everybody can see the action. That’s all fine and dandy, but we need to do this in the professional racing world.
Many Formula 1 races are actually quite exciting, but they don’t seem like it on your TV. The tracks are so wide that it’s nearly impossible to get a cameraman close to the action. It just doesn’t seem quite as exhilarating as hearing that unearthly shriek coming towards you, the whirs and pops from the turbocharger, and the crackling downshifts sending flames shooting out of the back of the car. There’s only so much action a camera can capture when it’s 100 feet away from the action, instead of ten feet away.
I look forward to Monaco for this reason: it’s one of the few races left where I can feel like I’m right there, even if I’m several thousand miles away from the action. It’s the closest we can get to seeing a modern car whip around one of the most historic tracks in the world.
I feel that Formula 1 has turned into what NASCAR used to be. Think of NASCAR as the WWE Raw TV show, while Formula 1 is like watching a street fight. I know this might seem ridiculous, but if you were into watching wrestling, would you want to see a scripted and pre-ordained fight, or would you want to watch a fight where nothing is scripted or agreed to other than the fight itself?
NASCAR used to hold a special magic for me, and I only watch it at Watkins Glen and Sonoma Raceway now, as most of the drivers are inexperienced on road courses. I’ve talked to several friends about the boring, pre-ordained spectacle that NASCAR has become, even though it’s got just enough reality to make it somewhat worth following.
Formula 1 now holds that magic for me. NASCAR and Formula 1 used to be the bleeding edge of technology, and now it’s up to Formula 1 to do that. NASCAR today is this: you have a larger-than-life personality, put the pedal to the metal, and let Dale Earnhardt., Jr. or Jimmie Johnson take the win. It was a shocker to me when Kevin Harvick became the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. It was completely unexpected, and it helped me somewhat re-kindle my interest in NASCAR. Formula 1 is now truly a test of a driver, his team, and their car. If you want to make a big splash in the racing world, become a Formula 1 driver. I know that what I’ve said has been repeated by many automotive journalists, but it’s worth rehashing.
One last thought (promise!): Monaco is a place that should be high on the bucket list of every automotive and racing fan. It’s incredibly high on mine. I’ve always wanted to do a road trip through Europe of all of the great European tracks (Brands Hatch, Silverstone, Goodwood, Le Mans, Nurburgring, Hockenheim, Monaco, Monza and Imola) in a Pagani Huayra.
I’d love to hear your experiences of NASCAR/Formula 1, and why you agree or disagree with me on this. If you watch another form of motorsport that holds this kind of magic for you, please tell me in the comments section. I enjoy watching all of the off road racing in Baja and the desert. It’s entertaining, and it’s truly a test of a driver.
One of my friends from school wrote an excellent article about the loss of magic in NASCAR for him, and it’s worth a read, as well as this article. http://www.theoakleafnews.com/sports/2015/05/12/is-nascar-fading/