Call me a cynic but the gripes and moans about Monaco always reach new heights whenever it’s time to cut a new deal with the organising Automobile Club de Monaco (ACM). The ACM has always paid less than anywhere else to F1 in hosting fees and been granted special privileges. It controls its own circuit advertising for instance, which is why you see Tag Heuer signage when Rolex is F1’s official timing sponsor. And it produces its own host broadcast which, over time, has lagged further behind the impeccable standards of F1’s own broadcast crew. You do notice it, because we’ve come a long way from 20-minute clips on the Beeb three times a year.
And yet, this time it feels different, the threats to Monaco seem real. Interest in F1 has never been higher and Liberty Media is coming up with ‘signature’ races in places such as Miami and Las Vegas. And it has more premium-paying requests for races than the maximum 24 its agreements with the teams permit.
Monaco’s current commercial deal ends at the end of this season. In response to speculation about it being dropped, ACM’s president Michel Boeri recently told La Gazette de Monaco, “I can guarantee you that the Grand Prix will keep taking place beyond 2022. I don’t know if it will be a three or five-year contract, but that’s a detail.” Which sounds very confident, but…
It’s probably fair to say that Monaco has always been a little complacent about its importance to F1. You only need step off the plane in Nice to appreciate that the Riviera is a bit special. There’s a unique quality about the light, appreciated by the likes of Picasso, Monet, Cezanne, Van Goch, to name but a few artists who lived and painted there. And a drive along the Corniche between Nice and Monaco makes you feel as glad to be alive as any anticipation of the on-track spectacle you will witness when you arrive.
But that may no longer be enough. It used to be the place where the movers and shakers needed to be. Where bigger sponsorship cheques were signed after a few days living the high life in Monte-Carlo. These days though, F1 business is done a little differently. In the current stand-off someone is going to have to blink first and it’s probably going to have to be Monaco.