We were lucky to visit Monaco for the Grand Prix this year (on Thursday and Friday), as well as take in a stage of the Giro d’Italia cycling race AND spend a night in Monza. Would we have preferred to spend the whole race weekend in Monaco? Of course, but half the race weekend in Monaco was still pretty awesome!
All images © f1destinations.com
This was a budget trip and several important decisions helped us to keep costs down. The biggest budget saver was to only go to Monaco on Thursday and Friday. All tickets are €60-70 on Thursday and entrance on Friday is free. The cost of weekend grandstand tickets was beyond our budget (pushing €500 per seat) and we didn’t fancy watching from the ‘cheap seats’ on the hill at Rocher.
We also decided to fly into Milan (where the flights were convenient and relatively cheap) which meant a 350km drive to Monaco and we stayed on the Italian side in San Remo (approx 40km east of Monaco via the motorway).
Free Practice Thursday
We left San Remo by 8am and programmed the GPS for the Stade Louis II football stadium in Fontvieille, where there is ample and affordable parking (we parked here both days at a cost of approx 15 EUR per day). From the stadium, it was a 15 minute walk to the circuit via the Fontvieille shopping centre, where we stopped for a quick breakfast.
We had purchased tickets for K & M grandstand on Thursday – this was a good choice. K is the largest grandstand at Monaco with eight different sections. We made it in easily and headed straight for K1, the closest to Tabac (turn 12) corner and right behind Sainte Devote (turn 1). Free Practice 1 was already underway when we entered the grandstand, and we were lucky to find a couple of seats right at the top, which provided an excellent view of the action (see video above). It was overcast and threatening rain, but the session remained dry.
Between F1 sessions we left the track and had an 8 EUR beer in a trendy burger bar. We ended up staying a little longer than planned as the rain began to fall. Luckily it was all over after 20 minutes and we headed back to the circuit to catch FP2. Unfortunately for the fans, no-one was keen to go out early on the wet track, so there was a lot of waiting around before a frantic final 30 minutes of the session. For FP2, we sat at the other end of the K grandstand in K8. The view wasn’t as good as from K1, but we got a different perspective as the cars took the quick Louis Chiron bend and there were plenty of spare seats.
Friday at the Monaco Grand Prix
The sun was out when we arrived at the track at 10am on Friday and the plan was to find a good spot to watch the feature GP2 race which started at 11.15am. On the way in, we took a look at the view from Rocher, the general admission area on the hill. I can imagine it’s not the most comfortable place to watch on the weekend when thousands of fans are battling for space on a steep incline. The smart fans had secured their plastic chairs in place.
We decided to watch the start of the GP2 race from one of the grandstands on the opening corner, Sainte Devote. By the time we arrived (still 45 minutes before the start of the race), both small grandstands on either side of the corner (A and A1) were full and the attendants were preventing fans from entering unless someone left. Plan B saw us standing on a raised platform after Sainte Devote above the Z1 general admission area. The view was limited but the sound and speed of the GP2 race start was still pretty cool.
Next, we wanted to check out the view from Casino. The walk took around 20-30 minutes via the Railway Station. Luckily for us, there was a red flag in the GP2 race and a long delay. This meant by the time we arrived at the Casino grandstand, the race was still well underway (see video above). As much as the location at Casino is iconic, the grandstand does offer only a limited view of the circuit and I fail to see why it is the most expensive at Monaco, particularly given its distance from all the action in the swimming pool area of the circuit.
Circuit de Monaco track walk
After the GP2 race, we grabbed a beer and waited for the track to be cleared. Just after 2pm, the gates next to Hotel de Paris were opened and we joined hundreds of other fans on the track. After a quick photo op at the casino, we walked down the hill to Mirabeau, around the famous Grand Hotel hairpin and then through the tunnel back into the harbour.
Walking through the swimming pool area, we spotted Mark Webber and his father relaxing on a yacht and took a couple of pictures. Only later did I realise they were talking to Adrian Newey and Martin Brundle. This picture proved very popular on social media, as it looked like Webber kept a pretty low profile on the weekend.
Pit Lane Walk
After walking most of the track, it was time to see if we could do the fan’s pitwalk, despite the fact that we didn’t have weekend tickets. At the entrance, we were told to wait to one side as those fans with tickets streamed through. A few minutes later, there was a lull and we were in! At the slow end of the pitlane, we got an autograph from Kamui Kobayashi, watched Max Chilton chatting with Chris Evans and checked out pitstop practice from Marussia.
As we made our way to the pointy end of the grid, the number of fans increased. The ‘fan’s lane’ was probably only around three metres wide, and it started to get pretty packed and uncomfortable. We did manage to see Vettel and Massa signing autographs, but had no hope of getting to the front and it was time to get some fresh air and space.
We left San Remo mid-morning on Saturday and programmed the GPS for the town of Biella, around 100km west of Milan. We knew the Giro d’Italia was going to be passing by the town around lunchtime, but had no idea where and exactly when. By pure luck, we found the course and within 20 minutes, the peloton came through. It was only a small taste of this famous race, but we were happy to be a part of the atmosphere.
In Monza, we had booked to stay at Ostella Costa Alta, right next to the circuit. Unfortunately, the GPS wanted to take us into Monza Park and along a pedestrianised lane! After driving lost for a while, a kind old man showed us the way. We still had plenty of sunlight to take a walk around Europe’s largest city park, and explore the classic Monza track. There was some rich men and their toys on the circuit, but mostly locals were just enjoying a walk, picnic or cycle in the park. We visited the circuit shop and stopped for a quick beer, but I was determined to check out the old banked circuit.
From the map, the closest section looked to be around the outside of the Parabolica turn, so that’s where we headed. It wasn’t too hard to find, but was blocked off to the public. Obviously I wasn’t the only one who wanted to check it out up close, as it was fairly easy to navigate some holes in the fence to gain access. The banking is in remarkably good condition, and surprisingly steep. It’s only possible to walk up half way before gravity defeats you.
All in all, it was an excellent weekend. And having saved a little money on this trip, there will be enough in the kitty for a return to Monza for the Grand Prix in September! Read more about visiting Monza in our Italian Grand Prix travel guide.