It's THE race of the year. It is the Champions League Final of Formula One - the crown jewel event. It is the race every fan wants to go to at some point. It is the race anyone who is anybody needs to be at. It is the definition of glitz, glamour and everything Formula One and motor racing is about. It is set in a place called Monte Carlo. It is the Monaco Grand Prix.
The event is perfectly timed as Formula One is going through a fair amount of bad press at the moment due to the four black round things on each car - tyres. They have dominated the sport this year and cars are being driven at 75% their full race pace so as to maintain the wear rate on tyres and reduce the number of times cars need to pit for a new set.
Unfortunately each car has a limited number of tyres for the whole weekend. So, to ensure a healthy race pace they need to manage accordingly. I sense that Pirelli (the sports chosen tyre supplier) are getting the brunt of the media backlash but feel this is wholly unfair. Their mandate when coming into the sport was to replicate Canada 2010 - a race where drivers were having to manage their tyres and cars could switch between a variety of race strategies - race it hard and stop more times, or race it balanced and pit less times. In 2011 and 2012 Pirelli had the balance spot on - but the FIA asked them to add more variety this year, and instead we have drivers talking about tyre management all weekend as opposed to innovative new design features on each car, which are now being ruled worthless. Pirelli have bowed to the pressure and a new range of tyres are due for the Canadian GP on June 9th.
Monaco may be different though.
This weekend's race is known to be light on tyre wear, which means there are a whole host of teams and drivers who could be up for a chance in winning. If tyre wear is reduced, then the favourites for the weekend must be the Mercedes cars, driven by Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton who have been blisteringly quick in qualifying this year, but abysmal in the race. The tight twisty nature and no room for error characteristics of the Monte Carlo streets means that one error likely means end of race and into the barriers. It's this that sets this race apart from the rest. 78 laps of pure concentration - Ayrton Senna famously likened it to driving through a tunnel for two hours, zoning in on the perfect racing line for all that time.
But it is far from a given for Mercedes - and will be a tremendous achievement if they succeeded. Red Bull can never be discounted, having won the previous three years in the principality; Lotus are very much on the rise and who would bet against Fernando Alonso's Ferrari?
Monaco is known also for all the big business deals to either be done over the four-day weekend (Practice sessions are traditionally on the Thursday, not Friday) or announced. McLaren started with the build-up to the race announcing a critical new engine and technical partnership deal from 2015 onwards with Honda, bringing a 20-year partnership with Mercedes to an end. Such is the rate of development and forward thinking in the sport, we are already talking about a championship year when we are on at the beginning of 2013's one.
That is then, this is now - Monaco is the one to watch just to marvel at the skill a driver needs to have to navigate the track. Exclusively live on Sky too - the terrestrial television dominance of F1 continues to slide into insignificance. Wherever you see it, do see it as nothing in motor racing beats it.