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'Monaco Baby!'

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Yes, those were the words Jenson Button said as he crossed the line to win the 2009 Monaco Grand Prix in his Brawn-Mercedes. It is the race every driver wants to win outside of their home country - in recent years it has been dominated by the leaders of the field: Vettel (2011), Webber (2010) and Hamilton (2008). But Monaco is a special place and can spring a surprise result too: 1996, Olivier Panis won in a Ligier-Mugen-Honda when only four drivers finished in an error-strewn race; some drivers who may not have had championship-winning success seemed to find their talents feel at home on the streets of the principality as David Coulthard won twice (1997/2003).

Every year, when getting ready to sit down and watch qualifying for the race and hearing Martin Brundle describing a car crossing the start line and brake for Sainte Devote, drive up the hill of Beau Rivage and into Casino, brake heavily for the Mirabaeu before tackling the tight and slowest corner on the whole F1 Calendar at the Grand Hotel Hairpin. Accelerating up to Portier and unleashing the throttle through the tunnel - blinded by the sunlight at the exit and heading towards the Nouvelle Chicane - through into the remainder of the track with Tabac, the Swimming Pool, into Rascasse and the famous Anthony Noghès corner. 19 turns, 78 laps, no run-off areas - just pedal to the metal insane concentration for two hours.

How Monaco is on the calendar today is crazy. It goes against everything that the FIA (F1's governing body) demands about track safety to support F1 cars of today. The first Monaco Grand Prix was held in 1929, won by a British driver William Grover-Williams, 100 laps and Grover-Williams' finishing time was three hours and 56 minutes. Not sure Sky TV would last that long without an advertisement break if that was today. The track was probably lined with people instead of armco-barriers, and in the early years of the race, cars would end up in the harbour. I doubt they had divers on standby.

Meanwhile...in Austin, Texas there is huge construction work taking place at the Circuit of the Americas, the location of the United States Grand Prix taking place 18 November 2012. You can bet all the money in Bernie's piggy bank that they are building a circuit that is over-the-top on car and crowd safety - as it should be. So why is Monaco different? History. That first Grand Prix in 1929 was organised by Anthony Noghès - a rich tobacco manufacturer in agreement with the Prince of Monaco at the time, Prince Louis II. It has remained (thankfully) a feature for the royal family in Monaco through to the present day. We'll ignore the fact that Bernie doesn't charge them to run the race.

But logistics and financials aside, Monaco is special. It is the symbol of everything Formula 1 is about: beauty, glamour, precision and reward. They have overhauled their pits complex in recent years to be in line with any other leading motor circuit and their marshals are the best in the world. The same can definitely not be said about the Spanish Grand Prix circuit. In light of last week's post-race fire in the Williams-Renault garage, in my view, the Circuit de Catalunya should have their F1 licence revoked. The absolute non-response from the fire marshals on site was ludicrous - if it wasn't for the bravery of the people working for the F1 teams in putting the fire out, the whole pit lane could have gone up in smoke. My immediate question is why aren't all garages fitted with water sprinklers...common sense isn't it?

F1 needs to learn from that - F1 is dangerous and sometimes we need a reminder of that. Hopefully the only drama we see this weekend is on the track. Sit back and enjoy one of the sporting highlights of the year.

Around the Web

Monaco - Official site of Monaco

Monaco - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tickets & Showtimes - Monaco Pictures - Huntsville, AL

Monaco travel guide - Wikitravel