Modernising Monaco: how to get more F1 overtaking at the Grand Prix?


Despite its F1 heritage, the Monaco Grand Prix has struggled to put on a show in recent years - but there are some ideas for changes that could keep it relevant for the foreseeable future


A downpour at Monaco and a disaster for Ferrari

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The Monaco Grand Prix might appear to be inseparable from F1 but the growing size of modern cars means that racing in the narrow streets of Monte-Carlo is increasingly tedious, with complaints about lack of overtaking becoming an annual discussion.

As a result, the ‘jewel in the F1 crown’ has started to lose its shine, with suggestions last year that it could lose its place on the calendar entirely; its case not helped by the discounted rate that it has been paying to host the race.

But despite low expectations of racing action and the arrival of Las Vegas’s version of glamour, the F1 calendar would be poorer without Monaco and the unmissable spectacle of qualifying, where drivers dance on the limit around the Monte Carlo harbour. The two-mile stretch of coastal tarmac provides a constant challenge, daring them to kiss every inch of armco in search of the perfect lap.

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“Focus is the key. If you can keep the concentration for each corner, each lap, you won’t make a mistake,” said Valtteri Bottas ahead of this year’s race. “It’s a lot about precision,” added Pierre Gasly. “It’s all about being very precise with your lines, being millimetres away from the rails everywhere, really nailing the braking points. This sort of risk that brings more adrenaline to it.”

Monaco’s F1 future is secure until 2025, but what then? Is it possible to adapt the circuit that could make the racing as compelling as qualifying?

We’ve looked at some options below — initial ideas that aren’t always as simple as they might appear, particularly in Monaco where shutting off streets creates significant disruption, and where run-off areas are hard to come by.


Remove the Nouvelle Chicane

Monaco Track Map - Idea 1

Monaco Track Map with Nouvelle Chicane removed

A single DRS zone appearing on the main straight is perhaps the centre of Monaco’s overtaking problem. In an era where F1 cars struggle to follow one another, drivers rely on multiple DRS zones in order to aid overtaking. Monaco has very little room for designers to fulfil this need, but it’s not impossible.

By removing the Nouvelle Chicane and adding a DRS zone ahead of the Tunnel, organisers could effectively create a second straight on which F1 drivers could pass. However, they would still need to be slowed before entering the unforgiving harbour complex at Tabac, which is where the proposal requires investment.

The Nouvelle chicane sits on a concrete pad that extends into the harbour and a similar structure would have to be created at vast expense just ahead of the Tabac left-hander. With some rearrangement of tree planters, cars would then be able to run down Avenue JF Kennedy, which is currently now the escape road. Just before the road angles upwards and away from the harbour, the cars would swing left into a new chicane onto the new concrete pad and then towards Tabac.

The uphill road would act as the new run-off. To give some indication of Monaco’s challenge. This is perhaps its most realistic option.


Surpassing Portier

Organisers could extend the high-speed tunnel section at the other end too, by including a tight left-hand turn on the exit of Mirabeau Bas and sending cars around a long hairpin that exits at Portier.

In all likelihood, this short extra stretch of asphalt would have minimal impact, so the Nouvelle Chicane would also have to be removed.

Monaco Track Map 6 - Portier and Nouvelle removed

Monaco track map which surpasses Portier and removes the Nouvelle Chicane


Extended circuit and additional DRS zones

With the current circuit remaining almost identical to its original layout, designers could also expand its footprint in order to add in extra overtaking opportunities. This example removes La Rascasse and instead diverts cars along the other side of the harbour, wrapping around the dock and back up the hill toward Anthony Noghès before rejoining the home straight.

This would allow for at least one extra DRS zone, but require more than just closing a stretch of roads. The carriageways here are too narrow for racing, and would need extensive widening, while also disrupting working areas of the harbour, including the cruise ship dock, maritime police office — to say nothing of the Monaco Yacht Club.

Monaco Track Map 1

Monaco track map with an extended third sector and extra DRS zone

Monaco XXL

Extending the Monaco circuit could be taken drastically further by visiting other areas of Monte Carlo. This example would divert the field away from Casino Square and weave toward a straight which could house a second DRS zone. Cars would then dive back down toward the original circuit, rejoining shortly before Mirabeau Haute.

This would certainly introduce a new challenge for the drivers, but would force organisers to spend more time developing and preparing the circuit ahead of an F1 grand prix.

Monaco Track Map 3

Monaco track map, forcing cars to drive deeper into the smaller Monte Carlo streets


Monaco GP format changes

F1 remains keen to test format changes to make race weekends more entertaining and sprint races have shown that they don’t need to apply to every Grand Prix weekend. Could the simplest solution be to devise a Monaco-specific race weekend?


Joker laps 

For those unfamiliar with World Rallycross, joker laps add another strategical dimension to motor racing. They use a longer section of track, in addition to the complete circuit, that is slower or harder to navigate. Drivers have to take this extra loop a certain number of times during the race and get to decide the lap(s) that they do so.

From the archive

As with pitstops, this would provide chances for teams to move up the grid through superior strategy.

Adding a large hairpin on the entry/exit of Portier (highlighted in red) would be a realistic site to implement the joker lap, and could be complete with pit entry and exit lines to ensure cars don’t collide.

On a circuit where overtaking on-track is difficult, increasing the amount of off-track overtakes could be the answer to Monaco’s current problems – even if it’s a second-best option.

Monaco Track Map with bogey lap at Portier

Monaco track map with the addition of bogey laps on entry of Portier


Increase emphasis on qualifying

Unlike other circuits, qualifying in Monaco is perhaps the most important session of the race weekend – setting the grid for a race where on-track overtakes are rare. So, instead of trying to improve the racing, why not make a greater spectacle of qualifying?

The session itself could be extended and use a tournament style format: drivers competing in 1-on-1 three-lap races with the winner advancing to the next round – the match-ups determined by a random ballot. Other options could include mandatory tyre compounds for each qualifying session, or a return to shootout qualifying: each driver getting to complete one lap on low fuel with no traffic.