The month of May is a big one for the wide world of motorsport, largely because two of racing’s ‘majors’ take place usually on the same day – as is the case in 2022. Both the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500 run on 29 May as tradition dictates: the first Sunday after the Ascension for the former, the day before US Memorial Day for the latter.
The clash is akin to horse racing choosing to host the Grand National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup on the same day. Monaco’s race dates back to 1929, the Indy 500 all the way to 1911, and they’ve rubbed up against each other for decades, even when some stars wanted to race in both.
In 1965, Jim Clark famously chose to forego the Monaco GP to make his third bid to win the lucrative Indy 500 for Team Lotus. It was worth it, because he did – in style – and still became Formula 1 world champion by August. Graham Hill – ‘Mr Monaco’, who eventually won F1’s most famous race five times – scooped the Big One in his absence to clinch a hat-trick. But in a year of Clark domination and an achievement likely to remain unique, there’s always a Jimmy-omitting asterisk against that one.
Time up for Monaco?
For some, traditions are there to be broken, and there’s increasing chatter that F1 has finally outgrown the Monaco GP and its narrow, winding streets. Such an utterance was once considered sacrilege, even when Nelson Piquet was comparing the race to “riding a bicycle around your living room” back in the 1980s. But in the hybrid era, when F1 cars have become larger and heavier (a meaty minimum of 795kg this year without a full fuel load), the argument to smite F1’s crown jewel has added, well, weight.
Thirty years ago, a late puncture dropped Nigel Mansell’s Williams behind Ayrton Senna’s McLaren, leading to a thrilling chase and closing-laps climax.
Even then, Mansell had no realistic hope of passing, especially against a wily Monaco master such as Senna. But now patience has worn dangerously thin that a race amounting to a high-speed procession can no longer be justified simply because it’s glamorous and sponsor-friendly.
Would anyone really miss it? The race dropped off the calendar in 2020 for the first time since 1954, as the pandemic enforced a delayed mid-summer start to the season. Its absence was a blip, but little more.