It’s not all pink champagne, Monaco can still work for everyone.
I remember watching the Monaco GP when I was about 8. It was one of the first races I watched on TV and Nigel Mansell was leading in the Lotus. It was pouring down with rain and he crashed out on the hill which was my most vivid memory as a young lad. Monaco for sure is one kind of a race. Anywhere where you have such an impressive setting with the ocean and the cliffs going straight into the backdrop of Monte Carlo is massively dramatic. Then you’ve got the boats parked in the bays of the harbour and in the middle of all that lies the racing track. For a driver it certainly is a special setting. You come through a tunnel, go past a casino and all these very famous landmarks are part of the track.
I’ve raced in Monaco in different categories and had some interesting moments. Back in 2000 I raced there with the F3000 European Formula Racing Team. The paddock used to be up by the tennis courts where they play the Monte Carlo Masters. We were sitting under awnings all day with not much to do and then just got ready for the race. I was super naïve and drunk a lot of water during the day and what it looks like happened is, that I washed out all of my minerals and felt horrendous in the race. I was in a lot of trouble in the last five laps. It was a hot race and those cars were quite heavy, physically quite demanding to drive and I just started to shut down. The concentration was an enormous issue and I struggled with my balance and ultimately I crashed. That was poor preparation back then and I had a lot of questions to ask myself after that race really.
The following year I was determined to come back, this time with the Super Nova team, and master the track after such a poor performance the year before. We were quickest for the whole weekend and I got it fired on pole, which was nice. The race went seamlessly well and that was a massive win for me. F3000 is one of the biggest junior category races you can win so that was definitely a highlight for me.
In 2005 I had my first ever F1 podium finish there with BMW Williams. We were quick all weekend and even though I felt that we left a bit of change on the table that day in terms of the result, it was nice to get my first F1 podium in Monaco.
It’s not easy to put the whole weekend together at Monaco, so whenever you get a nice result it’s an accumulation of not just what happened on that day but the previous four days. Even if it’s a dry weekend the track conditions change so much around Monaco, you don’t need any rain but you just need to be super versatile with the track conditions and with the amount of rubber that goes down because it’s a street circuit. On Thursday the track is nowhere so it’s very easy to panic with the set up and to lose your composure and make too many changes. The driver really has to be at one with where he wants the car to peak for qualifying and then you need to arrive in qualifying in a very confident frame of mind and with the car in one piece. If you lose any track time through technical problems or even crashes that can hurt you because you have to be involved in every session as the weekend evolves to be able to take a step forward in Monaco.
My biggest highlight in Monaco certainly was my win in 2010. I remember the race was broken up quite a bit with a lot of safety cars and I had to constantly reset my concentration. In Monaco the most important thing is the next corner, so don’t get too far ahead of yourself. We had just a seamless day really and a lot of it was in my control. The penny really does drop after the race and for me to win the way I did, from pole and really have the whole weekend in great shape, that was certainly one of my best GP victories and one that I will never forget. It was also great for the team as we had a 1-2, which is very rare to achieve around there, so we had some fun at the swimming pool after the race and a big party later. I also went to the awards night that evening. Although I am not big on black tie functions, it was very nice to be there. They do really respect what the drivers go through that day and they respect the other categories as well not just the F1 drivers which is nice.
The race in 2012 was a bit of a different scenario. It was on Pirellis and the pace management was very heavy early in the race so we couldn’t drive that quick. But having said that, the last ten laps were probably one of the hardest ten lap stints I’ve done in my career in terms of closing a win out because it started to rain. We were all on slicks, I was the first guy through most of the corners and I had everyone behind me looking for an opportunity. But to be honest the last two laps I pretty much drove around in the middle of the track and didn’t risk anything and it turned out well.
I had two interesting conversations after the race. Ari Vatanen, the rally legend, just shook my hand and said ‘respect for bringing that home in those conditions on the slicks, that was great to watch’. Fernando also told me that first he was praying for it to rain but then he was praying for it to stop as he started to get very nervous.
To win in Monaco is certainly very special. To stand on those famous steps and have the cars parked on the track and all the team in front of you, the history that’s gone before, the great drivers that have won there. It’s really like no other race! I think the podium in Monza comes close to it for sure. The key ingredients are the people at the podium and the atmosphere and having that opportunity to be on their level. You can’t design and build that stuff now, that’s what happens over the years with all the greats in history.
Looking back, Senna in his yellow helmet around Monaco, is such a powerful image for me. The cars were very tricky to drive, with a massive amount of power and it was in that era, the late eighties/early nineties, when I was very influenced as a young lad. I think also the V10s in the mid 2000s, when the cars were at their quickest were fantastic to watch. The fight between Senna and Mansell in 1992 was very famous, when Nigel was trying to pass Ayrton at the end of the race but despite fresher tyres couldn’t overtake him, that was probably one of the most dramatic finishes to the race. And if you go back further in time, I never saw it obviously, but the old harbour chicane used to be a quick left right and sometimes the cars ended up in the water. It’s incredible to see how safety has improved since then.
I remember in the F3000 race at the old swimming pool section, which was much tighter and the barriers were a little bit closer to the track, you could see the photographers actually leaning over the barrier and you were worried about the camera clipping the rear wing. In Monaco sometimes you can notice the photographers on an in-lap or out-lap in practice. I’ve recognised photographers around there in the past and that’s quite an interesting experience as you’re driving.
Even though I went to the Australian GP earlier this year, it will be the first race I will watch at the track on race day. I always said to my dad, when I’m not racing there anymore, we come back and watch the cars on the track, and that’s what we are going to do this weekend, I’ve got my parents and some friends from New Zealand and the UK coming and we will watch the race on a boat, which is a little bit unusual for me to be honest but you may as well do it all properly and be part of the whole atmosphere.
I just love how the cars are driving around people and under the grandstands. It’s a big box office, it’s very intimate and it’s a very unique sporting event. Obviously during a race weekend when it’s all going on you’ve got different people there. You’ve got the rich and the famous but then also it’s still a track that motorsport fans can attend and come and watch the cars and that’s what’s great about it. You have the people up on the cliffs near Rascasse and they’re blowing the horns and they are waving at the drivers when they walk to the garages and that’s still good. It’s not all pink champagne, Monaco can still work for everyone.
Calinon May 21, 2014 Reply
Many thanks for sharing the story, we want more like these! Greetings from Romania.
Davidon May 21, 2014 Reply
Nice article. Enjoy the new race perspective 🙂 and good luck at Le Mans!
Mark jon May 21, 2014 Reply
Have a great time mark , you’ve mastered the track and its your chance to relax and enjoy the atmosphere and fingers crossed a little kiwi might get on that top step in gp2 😉
Marekon May 21, 2014 Reply
Awesome text Mark. I hope You will enjoy this weekend 🙂
Jill and Brianon May 21, 2014 Reply
Lovely piece Mark, hope you finally get to sit back and enjoy the race with your family and friends around you, and it goes without saying we’ll be cheering Mitch on
Elizabeth Howarthon May 21, 2014 Reply
And this weekend, Mark, we should all raise our glasses to another extraordinary Australian racing champion, Sir Jack Brabham. Enjoy the race from the boat, Mark, and thanks for some fantastic F1 memories.
Agronon May 21, 2014 Reply
I wish u com back f1 u ar great person
Barryon May 21, 2014 Reply
Interesting insight to the weekend.
Enjoy with with your Dad and friends.
Looking from the outside in should be an experience.
Raise a glass on behalf of Australia for Sir Jack
Mike Bakeron May 21, 2014 Reply
Thanks Mark. It’s great that you can now spare a bit of time to give us these little insights — because this is the REAL stuff that we are all so very interested in. Thank you very much for taking the time (or making the time) to share this with us.
Chris Caveon May 21, 2014 Reply
Great read, some fantastic insights; especially your comments on the final ten laps in 2012. A shame we at home watching on TV couldn’t see the drivers faces through the helmets on that occasion. Would have made for some great drama by the sounds of it, plenty of worried faces I’d imagine!
Bill Ansellon May 21, 2014 Reply
Great story Mark. Good luck at Le Mans, now remember, no vertical 360’s please.
Danon May 21, 2014 Reply
Thanks for sharing that Mark. Great insights and super cool that you are watching this one from a boat with family and friends. The way the season is going for Red Bull this race might be one of 2 or 3 that they can get the win. When you were leaving last year from a biased Aussie perspective i was disappointed since i was certain you could not only compete for wins but for championships with Red Bull. Right now it looks like inspired timing to retire, although i personally would still be very happy to see you driving an F1 car the current regulations must be frustrating for an expierienced driver. All the best for the weekend and rest of your season 🙂
Jacobon May 21, 2014 Reply
Got room for one more Aussie/Kiwi? Couldnt afford to go this year.
malc Morganon May 21, 2014 Reply
What you said is exactly why id love to Monaco , there’s no other race
Rob igoon May 21, 2014 Reply
We were at Monaco for the last 4 years, always done on a budget and always had a wonderful time. Would like to thank Mark for stopping along the harbour on his way to get in the car to start qualifying for a photo with my wife, always polite and great with the fans (unlike some drivers)
Tomon May 21, 2014 Reply
Great Read, Mark. People who know what racing feels like and what beeing alone out there hidden under the helmet means wanna read exactly that. To me, you’re a true World Champion anyway, regardless what happened in 2010 and all the sad stories that followed later. It’s sad that you stepped down, also because i believe that 2014 woulda been YOUR year with the plus you always had at the end of a corner, the current tyres and the current struggling of certain other drivers. Anyway, alll the best and MORE LIKE THIS PLZ. Tom
Jeanie Elferdinkon May 21, 2014 Reply
Great insight! Wish you are here in Monaco! Was in Monte Carlo today & will be there on Sunday.
Philip Parkinsonon May 21, 2014 Reply
Your missed in f1 Mark good luck at le mans.
Lauraon May 21, 2014 Reply
Hot guy driving a Hot car…everyone Wins !!!!
Lennyon May 21, 2014 Reply
Thanks Mark. Have always respected you, you’re a class act. See you in Austin in Sept.
Chris holzon May 21, 2014 Reply
Onyah Mark, give it to them at Le Mans and good luck. Great message hope there’s more to come. RIP SIR JACK!
Le Bearon May 21, 2014 Reply
off topic, but must say I love your logo!
Liamon May 22, 2014 Reply
Thanks for the insights Mark, enjoy the race!
Joffaon May 22, 2014 Reply
Terrific memory lane blogs – another perspective for the fans
Gillian Goodeon May 23, 2014 Reply
Lovely comments Mark….I also love this race track in Monaco and I have even walked the whole track, and collected pieces of rubber for my collection…..lol.Have been a fan of yours for many years, and have been to see you race at silverstone ,your last race there with F1 and your first race with WEC Porsche.Miss you so much inF1 but I am now following you in WEC .I think you have made the right choice and I wish you good luck with Porsche,and your future racing……..your a fantastic guy,keep doing what you do best and that’s race !! 🙂
John Glynnon May 24, 2014 Reply
Great piece Mark. Monaco might not bring the most overtaking but it’s a tremendous challenge and an unmissable race. This year’s GP2 races were terrific also – a great weekend of motorsport unfolding on the shore in front of you.
Dina A.on May 24, 2014 Reply
Thanks for sharing Master of Monaco! Yep! Great memories & great emotions! Always been a ” YOU against the TRACK” race…
Sure you’ll enjoy the time with Dad, family and friends, even without sitting behind the wheel.. 🙂