Instigated in 1929, the Monaco GP has always run through the streets of Monte Carlo, the capital, and most of the territory, of the pocket Principality of Monaco. It has always been a slow circuit, but one which is unusually demanding on both car and driver. The presence of kerbs and walls require the utmost precision and there is very little room for even small mistakes.
One of the men behind the race originally was Louis Chiron, a noted driver with dual French and Monegasque nationality. Chiron last drove at Monaco in 1955, when he was placed sixth and, at 55 years and 276 days, was the oldest driver to start a WC Grand Prix. Chiron continued as Clerk of the Course up to his death in 1979. The narrowness of the track, however, means that overtaking has become exceptionally difficult. The cynical take the view that Monaco continues as a race only because it offers unrivalled glamour and is an invaluable tool when it comes to massaging sponsorship deals. (Photographs from the 1950s show spectators looking decidedly unglamorous wearing headgear made from folded newspapers and knotted handkerchiefs!)
The romantic see Monaco as an overhang from the days when many of the most important races took part round the streets of a town which were given over to racing one weekend every year. Viewed in this way, the race has special historical significance.
There have been small changes to the circuit over the years, but it has retained its essence and frequently provides one of the most absorbing races in the calendar.
Two drivers have managed to finish up in the Monte Carlo harbour: Alberto Ascari in 1955 and Paul Hawkins in 1965 - in neither case was the driver badly hurt. There was a third excursion in the harbour, in the movie, Grand Prix, when Pete Aron (James Garner) dunked his Jordan-BRM.