Monaco can be better, but it isn’t broken

There’s no sugarcoating it — the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday was one of the most boring races Formula 1 has delivered in recent memory. If not ever.

That’s not to detract from a hugely popular result as Charles Leclerc finally got his first victory at his home race after two previous failed attempts from pole position, but there was a perfect storm that led to so little action that the top 10 all finished in the exact same positions they started, and never deviated from them.

That is unless you count the opening half lap of racing that then didn’t count to the restart order, with the fact Zhou Guanyu hadn’t completed the first sector when the race was red flagged meaning the new grid needed to be taken from the safety car line, when everyone was still in their original position.


On that occasion, Carlos Sainz had plummeted to the back due to a puncture, but he got to address that during the red flag period and restart in third place, so avoided disaster on that occasion.

And it was that red flag that actually set the race on the path to being an inevitably dull spectacle from there on.

As hugely dramatic as the incident between the two Haas drivers and Sergio Perez was, it led to the stoppage that allowed the entire grid to change tires without penalty. And sometimes there are no other options, so every single team did exactly what it had to do and switched to the opposite compound to the one they had started on (either from medium to hard or hard to medium) and knew they no longer had to make a pit stop.

That was crucial in Monaco, because finding a pit window is so important on a track where overtaking is next to impossible. If you come out in traffic then your whole race can be ruined, and similarly a slow stop can also completely turn the situation on its head. Just ask Daniel Ricciardo after 2016, or Leclerc in 2022.

With everyone having technically fulfilled the requirement to make a pit stop and run two different tire compounds in a dry race, there was no need to find a pit window, and the only demand was to ensure the tires would last until the end of the race.

It didn’t matter if the tires would drop off a cliff if everyone else was in a similar position, such is the delta needed to overtake, but new tires against old ones would provide passing opportunities as Lance Stroll, Valtteri Bottas and Logan Sargeant showed late on.

So Leclerc simply needed to back the field up to make sure nobody had a big enough gap behind them to pit and emerge without losing a position, making it his job to drive slowly. George Russell was told to take it a step further as the lead driver on medium tires, allowing a pit window to open up for the top four if necessary but making sure there wasn’t one behind that Max Verstappen could take advantage of. In the end, one opened up for Lewis Hamilton and he tried to use it to attack Verstappen, but that just allowed Verstappen to stop on the next lap and then try to chase down Russell, but the slow pace ensured the lead Mercedes still had enough tire life to keep the Red Bull at bay.

Leclerc, meanwhile, was allowed to pick up the pace later on once there wasn’t enough time to stop and make up the time difference, with Sainz playing rear gunner by keeping Lando Norris too close to Russell to try anything.

The things that make Monaco the jewel in F1’s crown, also can make for dull races like last Sunday’s. Andy Hone/Motorsport Images

In Monaco it is often about the gap to the car behind rather than to the car ahead, but instead of trying to open gaps up, the red flag ensured this year was about keeping them close.

That’s not usual, and is why there shouldn’t be a knee-jerk reaction to how boring the race was — across a 24-race season you’re going to get dull ones even without Sunday’s mix of factors — but that doesn’t mean Monaco can’t be better.

This is essentially an annual topic, because Monaco gains huge attention and build-up, but on most occasions the Sunday is not the best part, and when contrasted with the Indy 500 or Coca-Cola 600 that stands out like a sore thumb. But as an event it needs viewing as a whole.

For those lucky enough to get trackside or watch the race in person, Monaco will always be spectacular. Every lap is an event, because of the immense skill on show from the drivers. Even practice is completely thrilling, let alone when there are all 20 cars racing (at low speed or otherwise). The simple spectacle of cars on that track is more than enough. But for those at home, while it’s still impressive, it doesn’t cut it. That’s where the majority of viewers are, and they don’t get to enjoy all of the surroundings, sounds and smells of being part of such an iconic weekend. So of course options should be considered.

To avoid a repeat of this year, the rules around tire changes under red flag conditions could be tweaked, allowing a change (in case they’re needed for safety reasons) but stating it doesn’t count as the mandatory switch. That keeps strategy as part of the race, but clearly wouldn’t address all of Monaco’s flaws.

Smaller cars would be the obvious solution but far from the simplest. Formula 3 showed you can race when there’s more space to go side-by-side. And Formula 2 showed more overtaking than F1 as well, on top of how strategy can tip a race here on its head when a mandatory pit stop can’t be taken under neutralized conditions (Zak O’Sullivan winning from P15 on the grid).

But with smaller cars not looking likely in 2026 now, then Verstappen had it right when he stated an evolution of the track would be his preference.

I’m a big advocate for not overdoing things at Monaco because qualifying is sensational given the importance, and in a 24-race season it’s not the worst thing in the world to have a different emphasis on the two competitive sessions at least once. But if tweaks can be made that don’t detract from qualifying and still make racing that little bit more possible, then they should be.

Just one half-realistic overtaking spot would make a huge difference, and changing the track layout is a fair consideration.

Monaco might be iconic, but the layout has changed seven times since its original incarnation, with some tweaks much more subtle than others. Some of that has been due to the development of the Principality, others the adaptation of the track, but the current layout isn’t sacred.

Existing roads mean options are extremely limited but there are a few, with potential around Portier to open up a longer full-throttle section to perhaps make the Nouvelle Chicane a better overtaking chance.

Monaco being Monaco shouldn’t prevent attempts being made to improve it, but they should be done with real care. Not every race will be as boring as Sunday’s was, and not every qualifying session on the calendar carries the importance and prestige of this one.

If a balance can be struck that retains the character of the track but removes the ability for drivers to drive as slow as they did this year, then that’s the perfect scenario.

So many fans make the Monaco Grand Prix a bucket list event because of everything it involves, not just the two hours on a Sunday. Ensuring that remains the case should be the priority, and making changes done with that in mind.

Story originally appeared on Racer