Every year, on the last weekend in May, the most prestigious Formula One race of the season takes place on the streets of the Principality. The circuit’s tight corners, hairpin turns and narrow course make it one of the most demanding tracks in car racing. The ultimate test in driving skills, the Monaco Grand Prix is THE race the world’s best drivers all want to win. First held in 1929 and organized each year by the Automobile Club de Monaco, the circuit has been called by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) “an exceptional location of glamour and prestige”. It is considered one of the most important automobile races in the world. The Grand Prix has been held under the patronage of three generations of Monaco’s Sovereigns, Prince Louis II, Prince Rainier III and now Prince Albert II. In 2011, the 69th Monaco F1 Grand Prix will be held from May 26 through 29.
Top 10 Facts about Monaco
1) Monaco is the second smallest country in the world and in average it only takes 56 minutes to walk the width of the entire country.
2) Monaco used to be much smaller until it began reclaiming land from the sea. Fontvieille was reclaimed in the late 1960s and the early 1970s, expanding Monaco’s area by nearly 20%. This reclamation of Fontvieille was one of the main reasons that Prince Rainier II was nicknamed the ‘Builder Prince’.
3) There are only 32,130 citizens in Monaco, however it has one of the largest population densities in the world, with 16,477 people per square kilometre. Monaco also has the highest number of police per person than any country: just over 500 police for 32,130 people.
4) People native to Monaco are called Monégasque. A person born in a foreign country but resident in Monaco is a Monacoian. Monaco is unusual because the native Monégasques people are actually in the minority in the country, making up less than a fifth of Monaco’s population.
5) Monaco is famous for its casino in Monte Carlo. However, residents of Monaco are not allowed to gamble or even enter the casino! James Bond is a particular fan of the casino, having visited it in Never Say Never Again, GoldenEye and Casino Royale.
6) On the birth of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace’s first child, a national holiday was declared, the people of the principality were treated to free champagne and gambling stopped for a day in the casino. Their second child, Albert II, is now ruler of Monaco.
7) Monaco’s flag is the same as the flag of Indonesia. The only difference is that the Indonesian flag is wider. The red and white colours of the flag are the heraldic colours of the Grimaldi House. AS Monaco also play in red and white and are often known as Les Rouge et Blanc (the red and whites).
8) The Monaco Grand Prix has been held in Monaco since 1929. It takes six weeks to set up the circuit and three weeks to remove it. Ayrton Senna holds the record for the most wins on the track, coming first 6 times. The constructor with the most wins is Vodafone McLaren Mercedes.
9) Monaco’s Independence Day is on November 19. It became independent in 1419, prior to that it was made part of France in 1793 and part of Sardinia in 1815, but became its own state in 1861.
10) Monaco’s name comes from Ancient Greek and means a ‘single house’. A Phocaean Greek colony near Monaco’s present location was known as ‘Monoikos’. Its name comes from two Greek words, ‘monos’ which means one or solo, and ‘oikos’ which means house.
by Olga Titarenko