“It is the most beautiful place we get to race but you already know it is never exciting for the fans.”
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton spoke for many a Formula 1 fanatic in the build-up to the Monaco Grand Prix this weekend.
After a year away from the calendar because of the coronavirus pandemic, the ultimate test of precision racing returns to the affluent, and extremely narrow, streets of Monte Carlo.
Which is great… for the drivers.
For the fans, however, the thought of another Monaco snoozefest – with zero overtakes – leaves us feeling colder than a triple-header at Paul Ricard.
Here, BBC Sport looks back on a few memorable moments when the Principality didn’t send us to sleep.
Ricciardo ‘screwed’ by pit-stop error – 2016
When a circuit is as intense as Monaco it must be especially galling to lose a victory through no fault of you own.
So when Daniel Ricciardo secured his first career pole with a then lap record at the circuit in 2016, a night partying with the beautiful in the Amber Lounge as race victor on Sunday seemed in the bag.
With the Australian driver in a commanding lead ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, a colossal mess-up in the Red Bull garage meant Ricciardo was left stranded in the pits as the crew scrambled to get new tyres ready.
As Ricciardo made his exit on a delayed set of super-softs to rejoin the action, Hamilton squeezed by at Sainte Devote to take control of the race and end the day victorious.
“Nothing you could say would make that any better. Save it,” second-placed Ricciardo said to his sheepish crew.
A mistake… by Ayrton Senna? – 1988
Two-time world champion Graham Hill may be the original ‘Mr Monaco’ but it is Ayrton Senna who holds the crown for the most race wins at the Principality.
With six victories under his belt between 1987 and 1993 (one for Lotus and five consecutive for McLaren) the Brazilian is one of the few drivers who truly mastered the unique intricacies of the Monte Carlo beast.
But in 1988 a rare thing happened.
After an exquisite qualifying lap to grab pole, Senna led the race from the start and, with chaos and crashes galore going on behind him, built up a gap of around 55 seconds back to McLaren team-mate Alain Prost.
With 11 laps to go, McLaren boss Ron Dennis told Senna to slow down to make sure of a one-two finish for the team, but the three-time world champion lost his concentration and crashed into the barriers at Portier.
Prost brought his MP4/4 car home for the win, while Senna apparently went straight back to his Monaco digs without saying a word because he was so angry with himself.
Ligier and Panis – the unlikely winners – 1996
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, Monaco born and bred, has a grandstand dedicated to him for this weekend’s grand prix.
Maybe race organisers should name another after Frenchman Olivier Panis?
It was 25 years ago this week that Panis, then aged 29 and in his third season with French team Ligier, lined-up 14th on the grid among the midfield pack.
As the rain came down on the French Riviera, the odds of a backmarker celebrating on the steps next to Prince Albert remained lower than the swanky Hotel de Paris being turned into budget accommodation.
From Andrea Montermini binning his Forti in the warm-up, world champion Michael Schumacher and his Ferrari not making it past the opening lap, to Damon Hill’s Williams billowing smoke from the engine coming out of the tunnel; one by one a roll call of casualties began to stack up in the wet conditions.
As 78 laps-worth of mayhem drew to a close Panis’ Ligier, along with McLaren’s David Coulthard and the Sauber of Johnny Herbert, were the only three drivers to finish out of 22.
That bonkers day in Monaco would prove to be Panis’ only victory in Formula 1, and in a recent episode of F1’s Beyond the Grid podcast, the Frenchman said: “After the birth of my kids, this was the best day of my life.”
‘Unique… but a slow burn’ – analysis
Chief F1 writer Andrew Benson
As much as the glamour and the money, Monaco is about claustrophobia – for the drivers avoiding the barriers out on the track, and for those working in cramped conditions off it.
The circuit itself is magnificent – a “10 out of 10”, as McLaren’s Ricciardo describes it. Corner after corner, inclines, blind entries, threading the needle; seeing a Formula 1 car on the limit around there is a sight one will never forget.
But what makes it so demanding to drive also makes the racing, well, unique.
Overtaking is almost impossible, so the races tend to be slow-burners. Sometimes, they never catch fire, turning into tedious two-hour processions.
But for an event with something of a reputation for boring races, there have been a large number of classics.
Wet weather always spices things up, but it can be anything – a crash, a safety car, a standout individual performance.
Senna coming oh-so-close in the rain in 1984. Jack Brabham crashing out of the lead on the last corner of the last lap in 1970, under pressure from Jochen Rindt. Hamilton winning despite hitting the wall and puncturing his tyre in 2008.
The list goes on and on. And so, after a year’s absence for the pandemic, will this crazy, unique, unbelievable race.