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David Coulthard column

David Coulthard and Jake Humphrey

DC takes Jake on a tour of Monaco

David Couthard
By David Coulthard
BBC Sport in Monte Carlo

Monaco is the crown jewel of the Formula 1 calendar - it may be worth 10 points, just like any other race, but a win here means so much more.

What makes Monaco special? Well, there are lots of reasons, and not all of them are to do with racing.

The sense of history here is immense because the race has been run through the streets of Monte Carlo for 80 years.

When you ride up to Casino Square, you are following in the wheel tracks of greats such as Tazio Nuvolari, Juan Manuel Fangio, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher.

The Monaco Grand Prix is like threading the eye of a needle at high speed. It is a tough race, physically and mentally

David Coulthard

The fact that you are racing in a Principality also adds to the sense of mystique and history. The Grimaldi family have ruled Monaco since the 13th Century and the race covers almost every inch of their land.

Then there's the unmistakable glamour factor. When you say Monte Carlo, people immediately think of sun, sea and wealth. This is the race where all the pretty people and celebrities, including wannabes, come to see and be seen.

Let's face it, the Monaco circuit nestled in its marina is a far more glamorous setting than a track set in the middle of an airfield, like Silverstone, or a modern circuit like Shanghai.

I'm a local lad, I've lived here for the last 15 years and Monaco is just a big village; when the Grand Prix is out of town it is very pretty and a pleasant place to live.

The fact the race is actually set amid Monte Carlo's twisting streets also makes the event very special.

David Coulthard celebrates Red Bull's first ever podium in Monaco in 2006
David Coulthard celebrates Red Bull's first ever podium in Monaco in 2006

At night people, clad in La Perla and Prada, will be drinking champagne on the track while sports cars rattle over the surface.

On Saturday, the F1 drivers will qualify on those same roads and that is a pretty unique set of challenges.

The track is constantly evolving and is at its best on the last lap of the Grand Prix on Sunday because that is when the most rubber goes down and when the grip is at its peak.

Those testing conditions make Monaco the toughest driving challenge on the circuit bar none.

You won't find a single driver out there who isn't giving it their full attention; at other races you can afford to switch off but you just can't do that in Monaco.

It takes an awful lot to win here. At 78 laps it is one of the longest races on the circuit and precision wise it is the most difficult race too.

When you are driving you are missing the barriers by mere millimetres, it's like threading the eye of a needle at high speed. It is a tough race, physically and mentally.

There are lots of blind corners to deal with and to make matters worse the Loews corner combination is one of the slowest in F1; you have to drive the car at full lock just to get round.

The exit of the Swimming Pool is also challenging because you are driving at 140mph between two tight barriers with very little run-off area.

JONATHAN LEGARD BLOG

Mastering Monaco takes a different set of skills and some drivers will get to grips with it and some won't. It's that simple.

If a driver is naturally very precise then it won't be a problem for them to drive at the very limit but for others they will struggle if they lose focus or don't hit the apex of the curve spot on.

There is no question that there is more personal satisfaction comes out of winning here than any other race because of the immense challenge.

I have won twice here in 2000 and 2002 and I remember a huge feeling of satisfaction coupled with mental and physical exhaustion.

After my win in 2000, I was so dehydrated I was unable to go to the bathroom until 11pm at night despite drinking fluid constantly!

All F1 drivers will have collected their own Monaco moment and two unique things - as well as the wins - have happened to me here.

Jake Humphrey steps into Monaco's glamorous past

In 1996, my helmet was steaming up and so I asked Michael Schumacher if I could borrow one of his for the race.

So I ended up finishing second at Monaco in Schumacher's helmet, the same one he wore to third place in Brazil.

In 2006, I finished third here which was Red Bull's first-ever podium finish and I asked Prince Albert if he minded if I wore a superman cape to celebrate.

He said "of course not", so I am also the only driver in F1 history to wear a Superman cape on the podium in Monte Carlo.


David Coulthard won 13 Grands Prix in a 15-year F1 career. He is a BBC Sport pundit and a consultant for Red Bull. He was talking to BBC Sport's Sarah Holt.



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