Motor racing-Monaco Grand Prix glitz has stood test of time, but track has not


Formula One F1 - Monaco Grand Prix - Circuit de Monaco, Monte Carlo, Monaco - May 28, 2023 Alpine's Esteban Ocon in action during the race REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

(Reuters) - Monaco might not deliver the most scintillating racing on the Formula One calendar but no sporting event can top Monte Carlo when it comes to the glitz and glamour that is an irresistible magnet for the rich and powerful on Grand Prix weekend.

Yet there is a buzz this season that Monaco could be in for some competition with Las Vegas poised to make a run at the F1 glamour crown.

A Saturday night race down the Las Vegas strip has undeniable appeal and with organisers promising an event packed with A-list surprises, the gauntlet has been thrown down.

But whatever Las Vegas offers on and off the track it is going to take something special to knock Monaco off its pedestal as Formula One's crown jewel.

There is elegance to the Monaco glitz which will provide a dramatic contrast to Las Vegas's American pizzazz.

For David Coulthard, twice a winner in Monte Carlo for McLaren-Mercedes and a nearly 30-year resident of the principality, no circuit, no city is ever going to replace Monaco as the sport's top attraction.

"You can keep asking that question for another 10 minutes and the answer would still be no, never," said Coulthard. "You can't buy history and it is special because it is difficult."

If you are connected with F1, or want to be, you are in Monte Carlo for the Grand Prix.

With the restraints of COVID-19 and the 2008 global recession having faded, it is once again commonplace for executives to be spotted enjoying a jet set week of high-octane fun.

But it is not all late night parties, champagne and caviar, there is business being done on those mega-yachts squeezed into every inch of the principality's iconic harbour.

Sponsors and their friends are wined and dined in style by teams and even other grands prix like Mexico and Qatar made the trip to Monaco to promote their races.

Each Formula One stop rolls out the red carpet for its corporate guests but Monaco is in a different league.

Celebrities from Conor McGregor to Michael Douglas may grab the spotlight but the real action takes place inside lavish hospitality suites.

Stroll through the paddock it is a motor racing high street of Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari.

Red Bull for Monaco built a three storey palace playground on the harbour to entertain hundreds of guests.

That guest list included Brazil forward Neymar, who made the tabloid headlines for playing poker at Red Bull having been absent as his club Paris St Germain celebrated the Ligue 1 title.

PokerStars, the world's largest online poker site and a Red Bull sponsor, is hedging its bets and going all in on both Monaco and Las Vegas, although Sin City will provide some unique activation opportunities, says company chief commercial officer Kevin Harrington.

"With the growing popularity of F1, it made sense for us to partner with a team that could help us reach new audiences who share similar passions and interests," Harrington told Reuters. "But Las Vegas will be the jewel in our crown this year."

While Monaco has maintained its timeless appeal, team principals warn that even Monaco cannot survive on history alone.

Over the years Monaco has improved the pitlane and spectator stands but they have not changed the narrow track that makes overtaking nearly impossible for the modern F1 car.

"It's a unique event," said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. "If anybody came up with this track now and presented it, there's no way we'd race here.

"We race here because it's Monaco, because of the history, the legacy, the backdrop, the glamour.

"You know, nothing stands still forever, everything has to keep evolving."

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, additional reporting Alan Baldwin in Monaco. Editing by Toby Davis)

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