I can’t speak for what Monaco is like on every other weekend, but when F1 comes to town the place comes alive with racing fans from around the world. Restaurants in the small principality serve food and beer all day as fans mingle and walk the narrow streets between practice sessions.
The autograph session in Monaco is one of the most hectic, but also most enjoyable of the entire season. Because the schedule for the week is so unique, they do the normal Thursday autograph session on Friday, after the drivers get a day of practice under their belts. The race organizers open up pit lane for fans to crowd in and see their heroes face-to-face. Newly signed Red Bull driver Max Verstappen is fresh off of his first win in Spain, and is a popular face for autograph-seeking fans.
In this photo, you can see almost all of the small country of Monaco. It's the world’s second smallest nation, next to Vatican city, and a truly amazing spot to host a race. The cars run underneath hotels, along small side streets, and down along the harbor. On a bright, sunny day, nothing beats the atmosphere of an F1 practice session with a view like this.
Lewis Hamilton chats with Justin Bieber after winning the Monaco Grand Prix. Bieber was a guest of Hamilton’s and joined him in parc fermé after the race, and even shared a little champagne with the Biebs before showering his Mercedes team with bubbly.
Daniel Ricciardo chases Lewis Hamilton during the Monaco Grand Prix. Changing weather conditions and a mistake by Red Bull’s pit crew made for a pretty exciting race, with Hamilton and Ricciardo running nose-to-tail for nearly half the race before Hamilton emerged as the clear winner.
During the Friday autograph session, fans can be closer to the cars than anywhere else on the race calendar. Teams push the cars to FIA scrutineering around the same time of day, so delighted fans are truly inches away from these incredible, futuristic racing machines.
One of the best vantage points in Monaco is up high in one of the many apartment buildings that line the circuit. It provides an incredible view of the action, as fans can be almost directly over the cars. Here, fans watch as Valtteri Bottas takes the first of 19 turns in his Williams Racing car.
Kimi Raikkonen races along the Monaco harbor a few feet away from the yachts that are rammed full of fans and party-goers. Some of the prices for a hospitality suites or yacht viewing decks push into the tens of thousands of dollars.
A bartender wears one of the unique Automobile Club de Monaco marshal helmets as he makes drinks for race fans at one of the many bars along the circuit. Monaco has a fun and unique nightlife that allows fans to enjoy a beer (or three, or twenty) along the race track itself.
Yacht parties run late into the night, every night, during the Monaco Grand Prix weekend. Yachts moored along the track are an exclusive way to enjoy an evening. The size and luxury of these ocean-going F1 grandstands are truly unmatched; simply taking in the extravagance along the harbor is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the weekend.
Ah, Rascasse. The famous 18th corner of the Monaco Grand Prix circuit is named for the bar that sits next to it. The second that racing finishes for the day, the catch fences open, fans flood the circuit, and bartenders start pouring beers and liquor for thousands to enjoy as dancers and DJs entertain late into the night and early morning, leaving a mess for Monaco clean-up crews to handle before track action begins again just a few hours later.
I’m told Monaco has only recently become this extravaganza of insane parties. Back in the 1970’s, everyone in the paddock could be found in just two or three bars, the drivers having drinks late into the night. Something changed a few years ago; the parties became bigger, wilder, more colorful. Today, the bars that line the circuit open their doors and host wild dance parties with dancers, fire throwers, champagne showers, famous DJs, and celebrities all mingling together. It’s easy to forget that all of this is taking place on a racing circuit that was being used only hours before.