The Race For Millionaires: The Monaco Grand Prix
Have you ever rolled out of bed on Memorial Day weekend, grabbed your coffee and channel surfed, only to see a bunch of cars zipping around what looks like a small city covered in yachts? And hey look, it’s Tom Brady! And is that Roger Federer? And I think that’s Tom Holland…what the hell is this? You, my friend, have stumbled across one of the most popular global events in the sporting calendar. Welcome to the Monaco Grand Prix.
Located on the south coast of France, referred to as the Cote d’Azur, Monaco is actually its own tiny country. It’s a royal principality, ruled by a monarch, but that may be the thing people care least about it. Monaco is famous for one reason only: the wealth. Though Monaco is the second smallest country in the world at less than one square mile (only the Vatican is smaller), it is the wealthiest nation in terms of GDP, generating a nominal per capita GDP of $185,741 per person. Why? It’s a tax haven! Monaco derives no income tax on its citizens, making it extremely attractive to wealthy people the world over who can purchase property in the principality and take advantage of the tax code, hence the enormous GDP figures. And this is very much a “if you build it, they will come” situation. As Monaco is gorgeous, wealthy and steeped in tradition, it has attracted one of the most famous sporting events in the world in Formula 1’s crown jewel race.
Formula 1: Way More Than Racing
The Monaco Grand Prix takes place Memorial Day weekend (in the U.S) and is the preamble to the Indy 500 later in the day for American viewers. However, the race is much more than just the laps on the track on Sunday morning. This race is the international equivalent of the Super Bowl for companies with advertising dollars to
spend, and for celebrities with a free weekend and some cash to burn. Attending the Grand Prix has become somewhat of a status symbol, with other famous athletes and celebrities making it a point to attend. And you get the crème de la crème for the event. World soccer golden boy Erling Braut Haaland attended this year’s race in a full Dolce and Gabbana tracksuit.
Spider-Man actor Tom Holland attended the race wearing an iconic Tag Heuer Monaco watch, and the McLaren race team rolled their car out of the pit lane blaring the Spider-Man theme song while Holland watched from the paddock.
Other celebrities attend as part of an endorsement or brand deal. In 2018, Tom Brady and Bella Hadid were a key part of the Tag Heuer brand party, dressed head to toe in white with Brady throwing footballs to billionaires on their yachts. Did I mention yachts yet? We’ll get to those. In addition to the big brand events, there are also exclusive concerts, dining experiences and charity auctions that can be attended by anyone from the normal person with $60,000 in cash for the entry fee, all the way up to someone like Tommy Brady.
So I mentioned yachts. That’s one of the biggest parts of the race, and you can tell most clearly on the television feed of the race itself. I discussed earlier how the principality of Monaco is actually quite small. As a result, there isn’t a lot of room for bleachers or grandstands for attendees to watch the race, so they have to get creative. If you’re wealthy, like, uber wealthy, the move is to pull up in your yacht and park it so you have the best view of the track.
The race itself is, to be candid, not that interesting anymore. The glitz and glam of the days leading up to the race have really overshadowed the race itself in the present day. The race used to be one of the more exciting races in the Formula 1 season, due to the changes in elevation and the hairpin turns on what are the actual roads of Monaco. Now, however, changes in rules and engineering guidelines mean that present-day Formula 1 cars are quite wide. When you couple this with how narrow the road circuit is in Monaco, that means that there is very little passing able to happen on the circuit, which leads to an extremely boring race. This year, the up-and-comer Max Verstappen qualified 2nd and finished first. What happened to the pole position qualifier? That belonged to Charles LeClerc, who is actually born and raised in Monaco. At the end of his final qualifier, he crashed into the barrier and cracked his gearbox, which meant his car was unable to compete in the actual race itself and he was disqualified.
How Can I Attend?
With the current regulations around the COVID-19 pandemic, it's still difficult to get to Monaco due to testing, vaccination and quarantine rules. Let's talk about it under normal circumstances.
It's actually a lot cheaper than you think, or at least it can be. Monaco is one of those events where you can spend whatever number you want to enjoy your time. Airfare depends on where you live, but flying into Nice (the closest airport to Monaco) will typically run you around $1,500-$2,000. Once you get there, it's your choice! F1Destinations.com has a great guide on how expensive it can be for each budget, from the "Budget" level to the "High End." A common thread through all of this is that you won't actually stay the night in Monaco as the hotel prices are out of this world. You'll find yourself in neighboring Nice, which is stunning in its own right. From there, it's up to you as to where you eat, what you do and how much you want to spend. You'll also need to budget for tickets, which can range from a single day qualifying pass for 90 euros all the way up to the actual race tickets in the grandstand at around 2,550 euros. Also, leave room for souvenirs. Monaco is still attached to France, the fashion capital of the world, so you'll find plenty of opportunities to spend your newly converted Euros on Prada, Gucci or Louis Vuitton.
Is It Worth It?
I cannot stress this enough: this is absolutely worth it, no matter how much you spend. This should not be one of those trips where you're penny pinching and trying to do it on a budget. This should be a "goal trip." A trip where you've pictured it for years and you've spent that time saving and daydreaming. I had the good fortune of visiting Monaco several years ago, though it wasn't during Grand Prix weekend, and had an awesome time. We drank, we ate, we drove a minivan around the roadways to pretend like we were Lewis Hamilton's more sensible cousin, and we didn't spend all that much money! This is an item you have to add to the bucket list.