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Formula 1: What makes the Monaco GP so special?

The Monaco Grand Prix is Formula 1's blue riband event, a race that defines the glitz and the glamour so often associated with motorsports' highest class of racing.

But why is it that so many fans look forward to F1 returning to the streets of Monte Carlo year after year for a race often branded a boring procession?

With the 79th running of the Monaco Grand Prix - which Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc is 1/1 to win for Ferrari - just around the corner, now seems like a good time to examine the seemingly unbreakable bond between F1 and Monaco.

Small state, big spectacle

On the surface, it's easy to understand why the marriage between motorsport and Monte Carlo is so strong. Often considered a sport for the wealthy, the streets of one of the richest countries in the world seem like a natural place to race around for those able to afford it.

But at some 0.81 square miles in size, there's barely room to swing a cat in the world's most densely populated country, let alone set up a race circuit. And yet, that's all part of the allure of Monaco.

The spectacle of Formula 1 cars swinging past the Casino of Monte Carlo, barrelling through the tunnel and storming along the marina and swimming pool sections are unmatched, all of which are accompanied by the stunning back-drop of the Cote d'Azur.

While some tracks have tried to match the spectacle of Monaco, most notably Singapore and Abu Dhabi, the original street race remains untouched. It's a sight to behold, enjoyed by the huge number of celebrities who are there to see and be seen.

A throwback circuit

The VIPs crowd the yachts in the harbour and the many balconies that overlook the track, which has barely changed since the first Monaco Grand Prix was held in 1929.

The circuit has had to move with the times in terms of safety, but while there have been a few minor alterations, today's drivers are dealing with many of the same issues those who took to the track 93 years ago faced.

It's that tradition which has seen it become part of motorsport's Triple Crown, alongside the Indy 500 and Le Mans 24 hours, and has made it a race every driver is desperate to win.

For the best part of a century, drivers have had the chance to emulate the men they threw grew up watching or reading about winning at Monaco and that opportunity to follow in the footsteps of history is rare in a sport that prides itself on always moving forward.

Former world champion Nelson Piquet said "victory there was worth two wins anywhere else" when asked about winning in Monaco and that status remains to this day.

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A challenge like no other

Brazilian Piquet might have won three world titles, but surprisingly never actually won in Monte Carlo, a track where one tiny error can end your race.

Many of the great have mastered the tight and twisty layout, none more so than Ayrton Senna, who won an unprecedented six times in the principality. Amongst the current drivers, Lewis Hamilton has three wins to his name, while both Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel have won twice.

It's some achievement to win a Formula 1 Grand Prix, but to do it in Monaco takes a special kind of drive.

The narrow streets were not made for the modern day F1 car, making overtaking almost impossible. And yet, the best can pull it off. With an average of just 12 overtakes per Monaco Grand Prix this century, every pass is a sight to behold and a major achievement given the surroundings.

While the threat of being overtaken is rare, there's no time to relax as drivers negotiate driving at high speeds around a tight circuit with no run-offs and needing to make an average of close to 50 gear changes per 80 second lap to get round.

It's a circuit that requires the perfect balance of speed, control and accuracy to survive with no room for error.

So, is racing in Monaco boring? No, it is unique, requiring the same discipline and control that make Test cricket or snooker fascinating events in their own right.

Only this event isn't being held in a purpose-built venue, but rather on the streets of a tiny country on the banks of the Mediterranean Sea, making it a spectacle like no other in sport.

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