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These pulse-raising photos encapsulate the magic of the Monaco Grand Prix

Sunshine, superyachts, supercars and more celebrities than you can shake a stick at. Before we jet off to the South of France for this weekend’s Grand Prix de Monaco Historique, we couldn’t resist diving into the Girardo & Co. Archive and finding five photos which truly encapsulate the magic of the Monaco Grand Prix…

How can this be?

The narrow and twisting streets which form the Circuit de Monaco would have been an immense challenge for the Bugatti, Alfa Romeo and Maserati drivers back in the 1930s. So it’s a small wonder that in today’s world of 1000bhp-plus hybrid powertrains and colossal amounts of downforce, this largely unchanged circuit is permitted to even hold a Grand Prix in the first place. But aren’t we thankful that it is. As a spectacle, there is little that can come close to witnessing Formula 1 cars of any era being driven full-chat at what feels like mere arm’s length away.

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Nowhere to hide

To say Monaco doesn’t take any prisoners might just be the understatement of the century. And when things do go Pete Tong in the principality, it tends not to be an “Oh, it’ll buff out” situation. There have been countless cases of seemingly unflappable racing drivers promptly running out of talent on the streets of Monte-Carlo over the years, not least Messrs Senna, Schumacher and Verstappen. But we reckon this contretemps Felipe Massa had with the barrier before Sainte Devote during 2013’s race shows how dramatically proceedings can take a turn here. The impact was so hard it caused his Ferrari’s G-force indicator to pack up. Bizarrely, the Brazilian had suffered a near-identical accident in the previous day’s free practice session.

Click Here to buy this photo from the Girardo & Co. Archive. 

In perspective

If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to visit Monaco, you’ll know space is at a premium. As a result, if you’re watching the Grand Prix in the principality, there’s a high likelihood you’ll be viewing from well above the track, be it on the rear deck of your superyacht just adrift of the shore or on an apartment or hotel balcony directly above the track. This proximity to the action and different perspective is an all-out assault on the senses and elevates Formula 1 to a different level of awe-inspiring. 

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The arrival of Senna

Monaco in the rain presents perhaps one of the most challenging scenarios in motorsport. But that wasn’t going to stop a young Ayrton Senna da Silva proving his worth on Formula 1’s brightest stage. Lining up behind true titans of the sport such as Niki Lauda, Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell, Senna started a lowly 13th on the grid in his Toleman. In the deluge that followed, the steely-eyed Brazilian began to decisively and methodically climb his way up the pecking order, eventually driving his – which frankly had no right to be so high – to a stunning second-place finish. The way he seemingly carved his way through the standing water and retained his composure in the most hideous conditions was a sure-fire indication of what to come and unsurprisingly earned the immediate respect of the paddock. The rest, as they say, is history…

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The great and the good

Simply put, there is not a Grand Prix on planet earth which has attracted more A-listers than Monaco over the years. The great and the good from the worlds of sport, film, music and television all yearn to be invited to Monte-Carlo for the Formula 1. It’s not difficult to see why. Coinciding with the release of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith back in 2005, Red Bull painted a special livery on its car for the Monaco Grand Prix, dressed its mechanics as Storm Troopers and invited director George Lucas and a number of the cast including Darth Vader himself to the South of France for a jolly old weekend.

Click Here to buy this photo from the Girardo & Co. Archive. 

Uniquely Kimi

Naturally, Formula 1 drivers are rather well paid and, more often than not, they enjoy spending their hard-earned on all the ‘finer things’ you’d expect: fast cars, private jets, superyachts and the like. Well, this paid dividends for the notoriously low-key Finn Kimi Räikkönen during the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix when his McLaren’s heat shield failed and proceeded to catch fire at Portier corner just by the seafront. Rather than hitching a lift back to the pits to debrief with his team, he hopped over the barrier and walked directly to his yacht, which was brilliantly named One More Toy. Shortly after boarding and with the Grand Prix very much still in full flow, a shirtless Kimi was pictured relaxing in his jacuzzi. “He’s with some of his best mates from Finland, who’ve consumed their own weight in champagne and beer,” said commentator James Allen. We don’t doubt that one bit.

Click Here to buy this photo from the Girardo & Co. Archive.

It never rains, it pours

For a circuit located in one of the sunniest spots in Europe, Monaco has seen its fair share of downpours during Grands Prix weekends over the years. And it never just rains… it pours. The 1997 Monaco Grand Prix perhaps won’t be remembered among Michael Schumacher’s greatest race victories, but it was certainly one of his most dominant. Amid hideously wet conditions, the seven-time Formula 1 World Champion put on a steely show of metronomic talent and resolute concentration to bring his Ferrari home 53 seconds ahead of Rubens Barrichello’s second-place Stewart-Ford. Look closer and you can see the textbook Schumacher focus painted on his face through his visor.

Click Here to buy this photo from the Girardo & Co. Archive. 

The photos in this feature are from the Girardo & Co. Archive, which is our new treasure trove of three-million motorsport images from the 1970s to the present day, all of which are available to purchase directly from the website. CLICK HERE to search the archive and buy photos online.  

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