Monaco is heavily restricted during its annual Formula 1 Grand Prix, and trying to find the best possible place to watch the race isn’t easy. Driving doesn’t get you far, and navigating on foot is difficult since the city’s multiple levels of roads play tricks on GPS. Ask around, though, and you can find yourself in some pretty cool places.
During qualifying, friends from BAM Motorsports escorted us to a high-up suite in an ideal location, with views that allowed us to see a majority of the track. Shouting over engines, David Madgwick, BAM’s managing director of VIP hospitality, told me he sold a package to a few well-off gentlemen for 120,000 Euros (about $134,000). Madgwick said the package allows for graceful striding between the best locations—take a helicopter to the jetty, a smaller boat to shore, and then head up to the penthouse terrace, with free champagne available at any point.
We went aboard a handmade Italian yacht, “Domino 88”, docked at Monaco Yacht Club. It’s a whole new view, just far out enough from the land madness. Spend six figures for the weekend, and your neighbors might include F1 drivers onboard their sponsors’ boats, Russian mafia, and a Saudi Prince or two. Inside the yacht club, very wealthy people in bright-colored nautical attire shout in a litany of foreign languages, because it’s really loud in there; a straightaway exiting the tunnel portion of the track runs right below the club. Monaco Yacht Club makes a great martini, but you’ll need to know a member or be connected to the few luxury sponsors to try one.
A T-shaped boat dock in the harbor is the most fun place to hang out. It’s where Richard Branson met his financier for Virgin Galactic. A special platoon of divers secure this T-shaped dock, and if you grease the right harbormaster you can inch closer to the action. Medium-sized yachts navigate into their 16,000-Euro (about $18,000) slips, which can be bought only if a boat owner obtains an official letter from a team asking for them to be allowed dockage. Catch glimpses of the race between drinks.
The grandstands give a very, very small glimpse of the race, but it’s the safe bet to spend 300 to 1,200 Euros ($335 to $1,340) and have a place to park yourself. Spend more to be front and center; they’re the best seats you’ll get.
Hanging On The Hillside
General admission allows people to literally hang onto hillsides to watch the race, clinging to trees and dangling off 20-foot walls. Some people show up early and chain chairs to trees to claim their spot. BYOB.
Don’t Go To Monaco
If you want to avoid the madness of Monaco, just go a few train stops outside of the city. Papaya Beach Club in Èze has fast-working WiFi so you can stream the race on your laptop. You can hear faint echoes of engines as you lay on the beach, get a tan, and drink a 5-Euro ($5.60) glass of Provence Rosé.