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Why Monaco is still F1's most vital race

Cooked up in the late 1920s by a cigarette magnate to put the Principality on the international racing map, the Monaco Grand Prix is just as important today as it was then, writes STUART CODLING. So what is it that draws us back to an experience one world champion - who never won there - likened to riding a bicycle around your living room?

"You have to feel you own the road"

Clinging like a limpet to a rocky hillside between two cliffs, Monaco is half the size of New York's Central Park and ranked among the least suitable venues on earth to host a motor race even when top-flight racing engines mustered little more than 100bhp. For race founder Antony Noghes it was a matter of pride: the forerunner of the FIA had bounced the Automobile Club de Monaco's membership application because it didn't host an international event within its borders. Noghes spent weeks walking the streets to come up with a layout that would enable him to host such a race and put one over on the governing body, which he did in 1929.

The cobblestones, tramlines and gasometer are long gone, and some of the other street-track features that persisted for decades have retreated behind the barriers ("You get everything that you meet on a public road," noted Graham Hill in 1968 after his fourth Monaco win. "Lamp posts, trees, nightclubs, houses, hotels, kerbs, gutters. It's a proper road race, in the true meaning of the term."). But it's still intense.

Previous article Fernando Alonso: Monaco Grand Prix leveller like throwing a dice
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