GALLERY: A First-Timer’s View Of The Grand Prix De Monaco Historique 2021
Photography by Andrea Casano
Monaco is a very singular place. A small principality chiefly defined by the wealth of its inhabitants and visitors where excess is all but de facto is bound to be a good place to sit at an outdoor cafe counting daily-driven supercars, but some car-spotting weekends are better than others here. One can find chrome-wrapped Chirons and matte black Cullinans on any given trip to the valet in front of the city’s famous casino, but Grand Prix weekends offer something better than the third-home spending habits of oligarchs.
To many motorsport fans, the Monaco GP is the end-all be-all of F1 racing. The march of technological progress outgrew the narrow confines of the city circuit decades ago, but the historic race is still a part of the season calendar, juxtaposed against the more modernized circuits. But every two years (the virus asterisk of the most recent running notwithstanding), there is something arguably more fun to watch than seeing the latest F1 tech vying for position against the backdrop of the hills and harbor.
This year’s Grand Prix de Monaco Historique marked the first time I’d attended the vintage Formula 1 event, and although it was a bit emptier than years past, the hype in my head was still surpassed by the reality in front of my lens. Thanks to my friends at Pastorelli Classic Cars, I joined their adventure to Monaco with their Maserati 300S, and had the opportunity to shoot the F1 action for Petrolicious.
It’s easy to be cynical about the astronomical costs of F1 (for both the competitor and spectator sides of the sport) and the ramifications for competition therein, but strangely enough, in the locale with more money per capita than almost anywhere else in the world, there is a sense of charming originality. Monaco is among the least changed of the old F1 circuits, and it’s by far the easiest place to squint a bit to see the past. Of course it always helps if the imagination can be bolstered by the actual sounds, smells, and sights of decades gone by.
The ongoing virus precautions limited press and photo access more than usual, but no fabric mask could block out the intoxicating fumes of Cosworth DFVs and Ferrari flat-twelves. Thursday saw the pit lane opened to the public; excited kids putting their paws on the paintwork, the mechanic who just polished it having no choice but to laugh. Thursday was also the only day I had access to the area, but finding a clean look through the clumps of fans meant I was more of a fan than a member of the press for a few happy hours.
On Friday morning, I beat my alarm clock to the punch, awakened by a much better sound. The sound of high-strung engines warming up with staccato bursts of throttle had my arm hair standing at full attention before I even made it outside. Greeted by a summertime preview of heat, I was ready for a day of trekking along the edges of this spectacular snake of a temporary race track.
And what edges they are. Or more accurately, aren’t. The line between the hot track and the rest of civilization is particularly thin here. At some spots, I was pretty sure I had the opportunity to reach out and give myself a nice burn on an exhaust pipe. Whereas the contemporary version of F1 is characterized by tracks with massive run-offs (and even bigger advertising banners), Monaco is pretty damn narrow no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
As mentioned, this was my first time coming to the historic grand prix weekend, but like any self-respecting motorsport enthusiast I have grown up with the iconic footage and images of the races here. The famous vantage points were seared into my mind long ago, so with the opportunity to shoot it myself, I tried to find a few different points of view on this extremely well-documented course. I hope you enjoy the gallery half as much as I enjoyed making it.