The 2011 Monaco Grand Prix and its support races

This day started early for Gary & Shaun...but it wasn’t hard to wake for this one: the day of the Monaco Grand Prix. Gary rose early enough to see the day dawning over the beautiful Côte d'Azur landscape. It was a spectacular sunrise just before 6:00am. The two of them met up at 6:30am for breakfast Windows Café, and it was a fabulous day - sunny with a clear blue sky. The anticipated high for the day was 26°C, so the conditions were basically perfect for the 2011 edition of the crown jewell of the Formula 1 race calendar.

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    As Azamara Journey continued to sail along the coast, Gary & Shaun found a table outside at the rear of the ship to enjoy the scenery as they ate breakfast. There was indeed an air of anticipation. As they ate, the famed Monaco coastline came into view as the ship approached from the east. From that approach, it was the Fairmont Hotel that put the view into perspective - the hotel that extends over the road to provide the tunnel for the race. Behind the hotel but elevated above it sat the Grand Casino. As Azamara Journey slowly made its way to its anchoring location, it was amazing to take in the entire tiny Principality. How tiny? well, the total area is about 2 km² - just over that, actually, since recent expansion of Port Hercules and the district of Fontvieille - reclaiming land area from the Mediterranean Sea. The breakfast view was, to say the least, breathtaking.

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  • Support Races

    There was hardly any time for Gary & Shaun to wait in the Cabaret Lounge before the procession started to the waiting tenders. The short trip was made to the harbour in the district of Fontvieille - the newest and most southwest district of the the four that make up Monaco. The entire district was made from land reclaimed from the sea starting in 1966 to deal with the principality’s chronic land shortage. There are currently plans to extend the district further into the Mediterranean by 2015. It was a short tender ride, passing across the impressive facade of the Oceanographic Museum (Musée Océanographique) built into the cliff face of the district of Monaco-Ville. It looks deceivingly small on the landscape but it towers 85 metres over the ocean. It took 11 years to build starting in 1910.

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      From the new harbour, Gary & Shaun walked with the group around the north perimeter of the port to the Fontvieille Shopping Centre (Centre Commercial de Fontvieille) - using its exterior escalators to make the climb up to higher ground. The shopping area did look quite spiffy, but the task was to walk through it rather than linger. Once on higher ground the group made its way through La Condamine - another district of Monaco and the area that Gary & Shaun’s seats were located to watch the race.

      The security system employed to enter the seating area was based on two perforated sections of the ticket being removed and collected - the first at the entrance of the general seating area and the second approaching the stand itself. To exit, it was necessary to pick up the perforated sections at the same points. Failure to present the now separate little bits of tickets meant no re-entry into the seating area - even with the larger section of remaining ticket. The system made some sense when you consider that the track was well and truly intertwined into the principality and all of the concessions and amenities were actually outside of what was considered the track area.

      Gary & Shaun arrived at their grandstand seat location a bit before 9:00am - about 45 minutes ahead of the first scheduled support race of the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup. The first few moments in the seat location was to drink in the scene - early morning with only a few other people in the stands - but the most amazing view looking towards Port Hercules and the Mediterranean beyond that. From the seats looking towards the left the view was of the most famous district of Monaco - Monte-Carlo, and to the immediate right of grandstand section was swimming pool and the behind that the building used by the FIA as their headquarters for the race. Trees directly behind the seating area blocked the view, but on the other side of the trees was the pit exit road and beyond that the race track itself.

      Gary & Shaun were feeling pretty good and spent the first little while just drinking in the atmosphere of Monaco. It was, without doubt, a spectacular feeling of excitement and anticipation. The views in every direction were fantastic. It wasn’t too long before track preparations began for the first race, with marshals checking the track and some cars checking out the driving line (and likely giving some dignitaries a trip around the circuit). In Monaco, the roads are only closed to regular traffic during each day of the race weekends events and for Sunday the roads had been closed to regular traffic only since 7:00am.

      Porsche Supercup

      From this particular grandstand location, the sounds of the Porsche Supercup cars could be heard before anything could be seen, unless one counts the images from a giant screen. For this particular series the drivers would be racing technically identical Porsche 911 GT3 RS cars with 3.8 litre flat six cylinder boxer engines putting out 450 bhp to haul around their 1200 kg bodies. The cars had a modified exhaust for the series to make the cars sound just as good as they looked.

      It was a fairly short race of 16 laps, but the action was intense and a lot of fun to watch. The front runners were extremely competitive, and the race was won by pole sitter René Rast of Germany in a winning time of 26:05.841. The margin of victory was 4.392 seconds ahead of second place finisher Nick Tandy from Great Britain who was 4.881 seconds ahead of fellow Briton Sean Edwards.

      Incidentally, as a post-cruise note:
      Rast went on to take the 2011 championship in the 11 race Porsche Supercup series.

      Once the race was finished it was time to check the schedule and figure out a plan of attack for the remainder of the day. From Gary’s experience at the F1 race in Montreal, he figured it was better to grab some food now before the next support race of the Formula Renault 3.5 Series rather than between that race and the main F1 event. With that, Gary & Shaun set off from the grandstand and picked up the two bits of tickets on the way out. With the risk of not getting back in, the two of them treaded the little bits of tickets like they were treasure. It was quite busy in the streets around the race and there were plenty of places to buy food, drinks and souvenirs. After a reconnaissance lap around the general area, Gary & Shaun settled on the places to buy some of each. For food the pair both selected a nice looking ham and cheese sandwich made on French baguette from one of the many vendors. The two also passed by the building for the Automobile Club de Monaco and Gary found a nice golf shirt sold there at their souvenir stand to commemorate the day. By the time it was getting close to the start of the next support race, Gary & Shaun made their way back to the grandstand - dutifully surrendering the ticket bits at the required locations.

      The day had been getting increasingly warmer - it was truly a beautiful day. The word that comes to mind to describe it: perfect. Maybe we’ve already said that before, but it doesn't matter!

      Formula Renault 3.5

      The Formula Renault 3.5 Series race began at 11:10am and as the engines were fired up the sound reverberated around the grandstand section. Gary & Shaun knew this wasn’t the sound of the F1 beasts, but it was still impressive. These 680 kg 3.5 litre cars produce 480 bhp and max out at 8700 rpm. The 25 lap race was thoroughly entertaining with Australian (& future Red Bull Racing F1 star) Daniel Ricciardo nipping Canadian Robert Wickens for the chequered flag by a mere 0.403 seconds at a winning race time of 46:10.332. Third place went to New Zealander Brendon Hartley whose was a bit over 11 seconds behind Wickens.

      Another post-cruise note:
      Wickens went on to win the Drivers' championship in the 9 race 2011 Formula Renault 3.5 Series.

      It was a good warm-up race for the main F1 event set to follow early in the afternoon.

  • 2011 Monaco Grand Prix

    Before we go any further on the day we should deal with just what edition of the race we were at - was it the 69th or 48th Monaco Grand Prix? If one was to believe all of the promotional material in and around Monaco it would be the former, although Formula 1 contends it is the latter. Why? Well...it is simple, the Monaco Grand Prix predates the official Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) sanctioned World Championship series. The Monaco Grand Prix was established by the Automobile Club de Monaco as a race in 1929 and has run every year since with the exception of 1949 when it was cancelled because of the death of Monaco’s Prince Louis II. The race has been included in the FIA’s championship since 1948 - missing the same year of 1949 as well as 1951 & 1952 when it was excluded from the championship. If you care to do all that math it means that 2011 constituted the 48th FIA sanctioned Monaco Grand Prix or the 69th race since 1929. Mystery solved.

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      There was about a 30 minute wait after the end of Formula Renault 3.5 Series race for the next event - which was the drivers parade. The crowd was steadily growing to its capacity level - people arriving only to watch the main event. There was a bit more time to take in the ambiance of the event and location. The preparations for the parade was being displayed on the giant screen - with the drivers getting on a the back of a flat bed truck. Gary had experienced the drivers parade in Montreal many times, and there it was done with each driver sitting on the back of a convertible Austin Healey in a procession of 24 Healeys. The advantage of the parade that was being prepared in Monaco (which is the norm for F1) was that one of the track announcers was on the flat bed with the drivers, so there was an opportunity for him to interview the drivers as they were driven around the track. Without cars racing around the track it was easy to hear the interviews on the track's PA system.

      Next up was a traditional lap from Albert II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco - reportedly an avid car and racing enthusiast as well as the reigning monarchy of the principality. He was joined by his fiancée Charlene Wittstock for the lap. Albert made the lap in a convertible Renault Magene with all of the course marshals lining the track similar to the what they greet the racers once the chequered flag is dropped and the cars are on their cool down lap. Gary only took one photo of Prince Albert’s car as it went past and that one didn’t turn out so great - so, unfortunately, you won’t see it!

      By now there truly was an air of anticipation as the time got closer and closer to the start of the race. The preparations for the grid formation was displayed on the big screen and the few remaining empty seats were filled. Following the national anthem came a sound that Gary will never forget - of 23 F1 engines igniting in all their 2.4 litre V8 naturally aspirated glory (it should have been 24 cars, but Sergio Pérez crashed heavily in qualifying and was unable to start the race). It was a sound felt as much as it was heard, and the bowl created by the crammed Monaco buildings protruding from the natural mountainous terrain echoed and enhanced the sound. It was like turning the volume up to eleven. The sound continued as the cars made their way around on the formation lap, and when they made their way to the corner know as Tabac, the entire grandstand stood to watch the cars pass.

      The official start was even louder as the F1 cars now leapt from their grid boxes in anger, and as Gary and Shaun got their first racing glimpse of the tops of the cars as they climbed Beau Rivage it was amazing to see the extra speed of the F1 cars over all of the other cars that had been on the track earlier in the day. As they reached Tabac it was staggering to see how fast they came out of the corner on the narrow track.

      The speed. The noise. The venue. Wow.

      Pole sitter Sebastian Vettel led the race from the beginning until his pit stop at the end of lap 16 when it appeared that there was some confusion in his pit box. It turned out that his second set of tires weren’t ready when he arrived, so it was a long pit stop of 6.9 seconds - pedestrian pace in today’s F1 world. Jenson Button had pitted one lap earlier and while Fernando Alonso took the lead when Vettel pitted, it was Button that ended up in first place after the top runners had all made their first stop. The confusion in Vettel’s pit stop had a dramatic impact on the race. The intention was to put on the option tires for the second stint (the same tire selection as used for the first stint) but what happened in reality was the prime tire were mounted on Vettel’s car. Why is that important, you ask? Well, for each race the tire supplier selects two of their tire compounds to be used and each car must use both types of tires during the race. For this race the prime tire was Pirelli’s soft compound with the option being the their super soft compound. Front runners would use the super soft tires as much as they could - for faster lap times but with the drawback of those tires not lasting as long as the slightly harder prime tires. Vettel’s race strategy changed in an instant with the mix up at his first pit stop, but with his amazing driving skill and perhaps some luck with the way the race unfolded he was able to nurse his soft tires until the end of the race and claim victory. Reading the headline that the pole sitter won the race doesn’t do justice to the skill Vettel displayed in winning the 2011 Monaco Grand Prix.

      Final post-cruise note:
      Vettel went on to win the 2011 Formula One Drivers' championship for the second year in a row.

      From Gary & Shaun's seats, it was amazing to see the difference in speed between the front running F1 cars and those running from middle of the grid and back as they navigated the Tabac corner. The visible difference was staggering. Gary did find out, though, that the speed of F1 cars at that corner made it difficult to take photos from his location - so he switched to using the servo on the Canon 7D to crank off a number of shots in succession to hopefully frame some well enough. By running the camera that way Gary was able to catch Timo Glock's wild cornering in a series of photos at Tabac on lap 31 that led to his retirement moments later directly in front of Gary & Shaun with a broken suspension. He must have clipped the barrier heading into Tabac making his car somewhat airborne and while he did make it around the corner, the landing or the initial hit must have broken the suspension on the front left wheel. From their location, Gary & Shaun also got a clear view of the chaos initiated by Jaime Alguersuari that led to Vitaly Petrov hitting the wall hard at the swimming pool. The activity around the car after the crash gave everyone the feeling that Petrov could have been injured seriously, and to confirm it an ambulance arrived on the scene and the race was red flagged. It was lap 72, so did that mean the race was over? Most people at the track thought so, but an announcement came over the PA system indicating that the race would be restarted after the track was cleaned up after the Petrov crash. Restarted it was, but these events helped seal the victory for Vettel - who amazingly lasted the 78 lap race on his prime tires that he had taken on at the start of his 17th lap. There is no denying his talent as a driver and the dominance of the Red Bull-Renault car under his control. The combination truly looked unbeatable.

      Post race, Gary & Shaun took in the last views that the beautiful harbour had to offer and then joined the throng in the slow exit out of the grandstand into the streets of Monaco. The first stop once out was to a local grocery shop for a much needed cold drink. It really hit the spot after sitting in the sun pretty much all day. They then made the slow walk through the crowded streets back to Fontvieille and the tender that would return them to Azamara Journey. The crowd was such that it was hard to take in the scenery around, but they did the best they could to enjoy Monaco as they walked. The crowd eased some by the time they reached Fontvieille so it was a bit easier to move around and enjoy the surroundings there before descending to the port. The tender was waiting by the time Gary & Shaun reached it and it filled quickly and departed without much delay. Relaxing on the tender gave them time to reflect on the day, it had been an incredible experience - one not to forget. But maybe to repeat? Gary certainly hopes so!

Linda & Nona's Day and Meeting Up After the Race

While Gary & Shaun sat at the track, Linda & Nona took things slow and easy for the day - taking the ship's tender to Fontvieille to take a wander around Monaco - well, to wander as much as possible with the race and accompanying barricades located all around the principality. They were finding out that if there was a view to be had of any part of the track then it was required to have a ticket. Any place with even a distant view of the track had either barriers to block the view or required a ticket to see.

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It was really unfortunate that their originally anticipated tour had been cancelled - that would have taken them out of Monaco and would have given them a bit more freedom to enjoy things for the day. As it was, enjoying Monaco would be limited - unless, of course, you were at the race. From Fontvieille, Linda & Nona’s walking tour of Monaco started at Prince’s Palace of Monaco (Palais Princier De Monaco) located in Monaco-Ville. The impressive looking building is the official residence of the Prince of Monaco and has been held by the current reigning Grimaldi family since 1297. The high and strategic location has been home to fortress since 1191 and was transformed into a palace during the 1500s.

Walking options were obviously somewhat limited because of the race, and most shops and attractions were closed for the day - so Linda & Nona limited themselves to the Monaco-Ville district for the day’s touring. Leaving the palace, they made their way past the Monaco courthouse (Palais de Justice) and Saint Nicholas Cathedral (also known as Monaco Cathedral). The present day cathedral was consecrated in 1875 on the site of a previous parish church that dates back to 1252. Many of the Grimaldi family have been buried in this church, included Prince Albert’s parents Prince Rainer III and Princess Grace. With so much of Monaco shut down for the race and/or it being Sunday, Linda and Nona wandered for a bit more around Monaco-Ville while the sounds of the race reverberated through the principality. It was unfortunate that even the Oceanographic Museum (Musée Océanographique) was closed for the day. When they figured they had seen as much as the could of Monaco they returned to Fontvieille to catch a tender back to Azamara Journey. They sat for a while on the open deck at the Sunset Bar located at the rear of the ship on Deck 10 to enjoy a bit of food and they could easily hear the race while they sat and relaxed in the shade. With the stoppage in the race for the Petrov crash that delayed the end of the race, Linda & Nona even caught a bit of the race action on TV from onboard Azamara Journey after leaving the Sunset Bar.

Once Gary & Shaun returned from the race, we all met up in our room for a post race glass of champagne - taking advantage of the bottle we had received when we came onboard and had arranged for our room attendant to chill for us today.

Before dinner we all went to Mosaic Café for some coffees - what would turn out to be our last visit to this fav spot on the ship. The realization of the end of the cruise was setting in, and now we were wondering why we didn't book back to back cruises to extend the pleasure! We returned to our rooms to freshen up and change and then at about 8:00pm we met up once more to head to dinner at Discoveries. Our last meal on board was terrific, as they all had been on this short trip.

The night view of Monaco was breathtaking and a joy to take in after dinner. One order of business that we did need to take care of, though, was to prepare our bags for disembarkation. When we returned to our room, many other rooms already had their luggage waiting outside to be collected by the porters. While we packed up we also took some photos of the Monaco coastline to finish off the memories of this amazing day in this amazing location.

Monaco Image Gallery

Arriving off the coast of Monaco in the early morning
View of Monaco from the open deck breakfast table on Azamara Journey
A bit of Monaco ambiance before things got going
Flag of the official race host - Automobile Club de Monaco
Eventual Porsche Supercup winner René Rast leading the way at Tabac
Prince's Palace of Monaco
Port of Fontvieille
The Cathedral of Monaco
Formula Renault 3.5L race winner (& future F1 driver) Daniel Ricciardo
Afternoon pre-race view of Port Hercules
Looking towards Monte-Carlo
The F1 driver's parade truck at Piscine
Timo Glock's damaged car being hoisted onto a truck at Piscine
Red Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel at Piscine
Lewis Hamilton - with a broken rear wing on his McLaren
Lots of activity around Vitaly Petrov's crashed Lotus Renault
Quiet track after the race was red-flagged after the Petrov crash
Marshals cheering on race winner Sebastian Vettel 
About WHITEonline

WHITEonline is the digital home of Gary & Linda White. We’ve been married since 1980 and live just outside Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Linda was born and raised in Toronto while Gary was born in London, England and moved to Canada at the age of 11. We enjoy travelling and taking photos while we travel. WHITEonline provides the opportunity to share some of our photos & experiences.

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