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GP Week : Issue 183
20 GPWEEK.com // 20 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: One of the perks of being an F1 journalist – and yes, there are many – is the ability to get a photographer’s tabard from the FIA. These tabards give you trackside access, and there’s no better place to take advantage than Monaco, the sine qua non of European street circuits. Every Formula One fan knows just how close the barriers are, how the cars snake through the tightly-winding streets of the principality before roaring their way through the tunnel. But until you stand at Piscine, leg touching the barrier, and feel vibrations as the cars pass... Well, you just haven’t done Monaco. I’ve not been a member of the F1 circus for long enough to be jaded. But having spent a Monaco morning trackside in a tabard has made me fall in love with the sport more than I ever thought possible. Paddock regulars refer to Monaco as the magic pill that makes you fall in love with Formula One all over again, and part of that is the organ-shaking visceral experience of a session spent walking the circuit. Standing at the entry to Piscine, the cars come roaring straight at you before jinking slightly to the right to make the corner. As they pass, the displaced air washes over you. If you get too close to the barrier (or if you touch it, as I did), you get knocked backwards by the force of the cars passing. After 20 minutes or so spent at Piscine, we made our way up to the tunnel. Without earplugs, because I am clever like that. But if I thought Piscine was an incredible experience, standing in the tunnel as car after car rushes past – sometimes even passing each other in the narrow confines – was something else entirely. As a car enters the tunnel, you can feel the vibrations start in your feet. As the car gets closer, your legs start to pulse as the ground rumbles beneath you. And as the car passes, you can feel the pistons moving inside your stomach, rattling your organs one by one. And the noise. Oh, the noise. It’s a physical experience, and not only because it strips you of your eardrums. Who needs eardrums, anyway? The sound of the engine enters your skull, bounces around your cranium, and then works its way down into your veins, so that you are throbbing at 18,000rpm. Every fibre of your being is buffeted by sound, and the combination of noise and physical sensation means you feel part of the car, part of the F1 experience, in a way I’d never heretofore imagined. But while the tunnel was the cherry on the cake, every corner in Monaco offers a different racing thrill. At La Rascasse you can watch the drivers’ eyes flick left and right as they seek out the apexes, passing so close that you can see them blinking back the sweat that drips down their brows. Portier is the perfect spot for photographs, with the cars running in close configuration through Mirabeau Bas and speeding up as they head into the tunnel. The Nouvelle Chicane is another hot spot. Thanks to the configuration of the corner, and the impossibility of a car coming off and going back towards the tunnel, there are no barriers covering the back end of the corner, which is also an access point for tow trucks and firemen, meaning you can sit on the floor and feel it rumble as F1 cars snake past you at fairly low speeds. With nothing in the way, anyone willing to sacrifice their press pass for a moment of stupidity could – if they wanted – reach out and stroke the sidepod of a passing car. You can take your sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll and chuck them in the Monaco harbour. For pure passion, energy, and anticipation, there’s nothing – NOTHING – like watching the cars tear these city streets apart mere millimetres from your eyes. THE TUNNEL OF LOVE OPINION OPINION KATE WALKER Editor