Monaco GP: Formula 1 drivers explain thrill and ‘awe’ of famous circuit ahead of showpiece return

Formula 1 cars will grace the hallowed streets of Monaco today after a two-year absence as excited drivers prepare to take on the “amazing rollercoaster ride” that is the Monte Carlo circuit for the opening day of practice.

The Monaco GP, F1’s fabled jewel in the crown, is always a standout event – but even more so this year after it was forced off the calendar for the first time since 1954 last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Special feature: Monaco moments, track guide and historic pictures
  • When to watch all the Monaco GP action on Sky Sports F1

It returns in 2021 as the fifth round of a fiercely-competitive season, with the battle at the front and the midfield difficult to predict, while it will also quite possibly be playing host to record lap times with the new cars.

First practice begins today at 10.30am on Sky Sports F1, with build-up from 10am, before the second hour-long practice session at 2pm.

Teams and drivers will then get the traditional Friday ‘off’ at Monaco before returning for a crucial qualifying day on Saturday.

The thrill of Monaco as drivers explain ‘awe’

Sky F1’s Karun Chandhok was forthcoming in his praise for the iconic Grand Prix, famed for its glittering history, glamour and the challenge of a tight and twisty track which is incredibly unique in today’s F1.

“It is a stunning part of the world, no question about it – but most importantly as a racing driver this is just a special place to drive around,” said Chandhok, who drove the 2009 Monaco GP.

“It’s difficult, it’s historic, it’s iconic, but I think you get such a buzz from being close to the walls.

“Nowadays they go to these big wide open tracks where the walls are so far away. You get that buzz of avoiding them, when you get past the barriers round here.

“Every inch of it oozes history. There’s a magic to the place.”

Monaco is often described as the one drivers want to win, and there are five previous victors taking part this weekend – Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo.

It’s clear to see that it’s a drivers’ favourite…

Lewis Hamilton
“It’s always great fun to drive on a single lap, and just getting out on track is always a big shock in terms of just how fast everything is. What an incredible place.

“All the sections are pretty unique as you go up and down through the city. It’s an amazing rollercoaster ride.”

Daniel Ricciardo
“I love street circuits and from day one driving here… you’re kind of just in awe of the place. Then driving around, it’s so tight but it also flows.

“It’s quite a beautiful circuit, at some points you kind of go over the kerbs and onto a footpath. It’s unique. But you make a mistake you pay the price. If you’re willing to take it to the edge it can pay off and win the biggest prize of all. That balance intrigues me. It’s a place I’ve always loved.”

Sebastian Vettel
“There’s so much history around this Grand Prix, it’s a special one. And it’s definitely something special to win here.”

Carlos Sainz
“It’s one of the most exciting tracks we cover mainly because of the adrenaline rush, how you have to push yourself and your cars to the limit with the walls so close. The speeds we are doing nowadays with these cars is crazy.”

Fernando Alonso
“The adrenaline is definitely higher this weekend then any other weekend.”

Valtteri Bottas
“It’s quite a demanding weekend generally. It’s a draining track, with all this information coming to you quickly as you try to react. You need to have stuff reserved – physically and mentally – for the whole week.”

Esteban Ocon
“Monaco is probably the toughest one of them all.”

Sky Sports F1’s Monaco GP schedule

Thursday
8.40am: F2 Practice
10am: Monaco GP Practice One (Session starts at 10.30am)
12.15pm: F2 Qualifying
1.45pm: Monaco GP Practice Two (Session starts at 2pm)

Friday
10.40am: F2 Sprint Race One

Saturday
7.10am: F2 Sprint Race Two
10.45am: Monaco GP Practice Three (Session starts at 11am)
1pm: Monaco GP Qualifying build-up
2pm: Monaco GP Qualifying
4.05pm: F2 Feature Race
5.30pm: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook

Sunday
12.30pm: Grand Prix Sunday
2pm: THE MONACO GRAND PRIX
4pm: Chequered Flag
5pm: Ted’s Notebook
9.30pm: Monaco GP highlights

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