This blog I will discuss why the Indy 500 has surpassed Monaco as the must watch event on next weekend Motorsports marathon.
Firstly, you will have fans from F1 who will not accept this opinion as the Indy 500 and the World 600 are just driving round in circles and does not have the glitz and glamour of Monaco. I will be the first to admit that Indy or Charlotte Motorspeedway’s 600 race will not have the celebrity presence or the rich attending, however, as a race Monaco is relying on the celebrity buzz to distract from what has turned into one if not the most processional and dull races in all of Formula 1.
The Monaco Grand Prix is the most famous grand prix in the Formula 1 calendar. It’s allure is the rich and famous turning out on mass to the tiny principality to see the race. Whether it is the pre race weekend fashion shows and parties to the after party’s on the yachts. The attendees take you back to a time when hollywood’s finest would turn out to party. The drivers take part in special events and have gone as far as wearing diamond encrusted designs on their helmet.
Due to the this Monaco receives the most world-wide attention of any race. When it comes to the racing, the track has virtually remained unchanged since the initial races in the principality. You are able to visualise Senna, Graham Hill and the other Monaco masters hustling their cars around a track with no run off and unforgiving guard rails waiting to claim another victim. Another key feature of the Monaco GP is when it rains it can provide some of the greatest races. With the treacherous white lines around the street circuit and the infamous tunnel it has an increased challenge that drivers do not experience at any other F1 race. It is a true proving ground for great racers as demonstrated by Ayrton Senna’s debut podium behind Alain Prost.
It is also one of Motorsports triple crown. The Monaco GP, Indianapolis 500 and the Le Mans 24 hour. Only one man has ever conquered all three the late great Graham Hill.
The Indianapolis 500 in the heart of Indiana is another one of Motorsports triple crown. The IndyCar series turning up this year for the 101st running of the race.
Raced around a flat oval with 4 low banked turns, two short shoots and two main straights this track provides a totally different challenge to Monaco. Although the four turns look the same to the untrained eye these corners have their own character and new drivers will quickly learn that any complacency will be punished.
Lined with safer barriers and catch fencing the 500 mile race with 33 competitors is all about positioning, strategy and using the draft. This exudes drama. From wheel to wheel action at over 220mph to scary crashes and photo finishes this race has it all. A testament to it toughness to win is the list of winners. They are a who’s who of Indycar and USAC’s greatest talents. Equally legends such as Michael Andretti have always been unable to capture that elusive victory.
Steeped in tradition from the celebratory milk at the end of the race to pre race ceremonies this race has a completely unique feel to any other race in the world.
The world 600 is NASCAR’s longest race and one of its crown jewels. Starting in the afternoon but not finishing till late at night this race which can take up to 5 hours to complete is a true test of endurance. At a classic NASCAR venue just minutes away from many of teams headquarters this is a special homecoming for the NASCAR drivers.
The move from day to night provides a unique challenge. The cars which sensitive to temperature changes and the tracks character becoming less slick as the night sets in means the race just gets faster and faster leaving less room for error.
The fact this track is so narrow in sections also require supreme skills from drivers in cars that have minimal downforce and are always of snapping sideways in traffic. Like Indy and Monaco the list of the winningest drivers reads like a list of NASCAR legends. From Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. This race does not have the celebrity presence of Indy and Monaco but provides close finishes, wild crashes and side by side action that the other two races are unable to match.
Why the Indy 500 has surpassed Monaco as a must watch race
Even the most loyal F1 fans have to admit the Monaco Grand Prix for many years now has been a high speed procession. With little to no overtakes this has turned into a race dictated by whoever has the best start and pit stops, wins the race. The slowest car many seconds off the pace has the ability to defend from the might of Mercedes and Ferrari with relative ease. Furthermore, even the challenge and risk of crashes has diminished. Whether it is removing the barriers and straightening the corners such as the swimming pool and Sainte Devote, Monaco has begun to lose a key ingredient that made it must watch. Drivers can make mistakes and get away with it.
These small changes have brought Monaco to be inline with many Formula 1 circuits. The walls maybe closer than most tracks but drivers know they can afford to make errors in certain corners which gives them that moment to relax. In the 90’s and earlier there was no place on the track the driver could relax or feel they could make an error and not end up in the barrier.
Although Monaco has never been renowned for overtaking, in the past it was possible as demonstrated by Mansell in the 1991 grand prix. However, with the cars so aero dependent and on rails it has become mission impossible without a massive error from the driver in front, or making a lunge like Max Verstappen tried which led to his huge incident at Saint Devote.
The Indy 500 and it’s track is totally unchanged bar the addition of the much-needed safer barrier. Furthermore, with the cars and the effect of the draft you are guaranteed to have close racing and a real possibility of close finishes with passes on the last lap.
Over the last 7 of so years the Indy 500 has not disappointed. Whether it be late lead changes, close finishes, underdog victory’s and spectacular crashes the race has had it all year after year. Furthermore, after last years sell out bringing in over 250,000 people to the speedway, it truly came alive and put itself back on the map. After struggling for many years since the Champ Car Indycar split this race is returning to its glory days. While Monaco is in decline with its on race product Indy keeps getting stronger and stronger.
Finally, Indy has got the massive coup of Fernando Alonso competing in his first Indianapolis 500. Now I firmly believe that Indy would surpass Monaco as a must watch even without Alonso but this deal has really given Indy the worldwide attention that it deserves.
Outside America the Indy 500 is criminally under reported unless there is huge incidents and injury as there was in 2015. However, with the addition of Alonso who is a bona-fide superstar around the world this is Indy’s opportunity to put on a great race to a whole new audience. Even Alonso has spoken of the difficulty and intricacies of racing at Indy that make it so much more difficult to peoples perception. I hope that Alonso has a great race but I fear that if he wins at his first attempt this will add unfair and unjust argument that Formula 1 drivers are far superior to the drivers in Indycar.
What about the World 600
The World 600 or as it is now known the Coca Cola 600 will never receive the world-wide attention or have the glitz and glamour of Monaco or Indy. However, this does not take away its importance.
Out of all the races this will likely provide some of the best if not the best on race action. Furthermore, the television coverage provides a more in-depth look and unique camera angles that Formula 1 and Indy 500 fans can only dream of. A major appeal of the Coca Cola 600 is the fact it’s NASCAR’s homecoming. It is not like Indy and Monaco which is in the world-wide spotlight. But this race is just as important and gives NASCAR and it’s stars time to shine in front of a “home crowd” with all their friends and family. For the spectacle and prestige Indy surpasses both Monaco and the Coca Cola 600. But if you want to gain a true feel for real Americans and their passion for motorsport the Coca Cola 600 is a must watch.