Damon Hill has questioned whether Formula 1 owners Liberty Media will “do the unthinkable” and remove Monaco from the calendar.
The Monaco Grand Prix is in a tough spot as it is one of the most historic and recognizable races in the world, but also currently one of the most boring.
The width and length of a modern F1 car combined with the narrow streets of Monte Carlo mean that the racing action in 2023 is a far cry from what it was in the early days of F1, with the cars now six feet wide and the most to the north of 5.5 meters in length.
While other circuits have changed to suit the modern demands of F1 Monaco simply cannot with its street circuit being in one of the most built up and busiest areas in the world has led some to ask a question which many thought they would never be asked: should F1 stop racing in Monaco?
The Monte Carlo circuit is one that holds a special place in the Hill family, as while Damon never won there, his father Graham became ‘Mr. Monaco’ after his five wins on the track.
Damon Hill said it would be “unthinkable” to get rid of Monaco, but it could be an option owners Liberty Media are considering.
“It would have been heresy not so long ago to even suggest a Formula 1 world championship without the race every driver most wants to win,” he wrote in his Telegraph column. “After all, Monaco is part of the structure of the sport, just like Ferrari.
“First run in 1929, its history is littered with the legendary names and deeds of our sport.
“I only saw my dad win it once and never made it to the event while he was alive. But the image of him circling the Gasworks hairpin in 1969 and waving to the crowd, despite poor reception on our portable black and white TV in England, is still vivid in my mind. Just like the shaky onboard footage of Ayrton Senna’s legendary qualifying round in 1988, where he experienced an ‘out of body’ moment that scared him so much he had to go into the pits to think about it.
“However, you increasingly hear the suggestion that it has crossed the line that separates ‘unique’ and ‘charming’ from ‘anachronistic’ and ‘anomaly’. Could Liberty Media, the American owners of the sport, do the unthinkable? After all, the contract they signed last year only takes us until 2025. If they saw Monaco as so crucial to the World Cup, surely they would have nailed it on the calendar for the next 10 years?”
Hill is correct in pointing out the short deal handed to Monaco as it is a far cry from the contracts handed to Qatar, Bahrain and Australia which all extend into the 2030s. Ultimately, however, Hill believes that Liberty Media gets the need for Monaco and that it is still the ultimate challenge for a driver.
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“Liberty is no fool,” added the 1996 world champion. “They know very well what Monaco brings to the party. It’s incredibly glamorous. It is located in the South of France. You can watch it from your own yacht. It has a long and very important relationship with Formula 1. Many of the drivers live here. They all get that. In fact, Netflix’s marketing-led Liberty executives probably understood “Drive to Survive” better than Bernie Ecclestone ever did.
“But the one thing they don’t like is a boring race. And this is the weak color of Monaco.
“Fans don’t like this. And when I say fans, I mostly mean newbies who have joined since Netflix. And that means Liberty doesn’t like it. Because why watch a race where nothing happens?
“Well, I get that. I do. But I would argue – and I accept that this is a rather personal point of view – that is to miss the point of Monaco completely. For a driver, Monaco is simply the ultimate test. It’s between you, your car and the track. It’s the most technically challenging, courage-inducing, concentration-sapping, eye-popping rollercoaster ride in our sport. Yes, the race is sometimes boring to watch on Sunday, but that’s because the real race is on Saturday.”