Why Cancellation of the F1 Monaco Grand Prix Was No Surprise

The news that the Monaco Grand Prix was canceled is no great surprise.

Monaco has very peculiar circumstances, which make it different from most other events, simply because of the amount of work required to convert the city into a racing circuit. It is what one might term a pop-up race.

As with Melbourne, Singapore and, to a lesser extent, Montreal, as well as the IndyCar race at Long Beach, the preparations for the race in Monaco require considerable investment in building the circuit.

Monaco has more to do than most as the pit buildings and garages are not permanent and must be erected. This has been made as efficient as possible by designing the racing buildings in such a way that they slot together with relative ease, but it is still a huge task each year and requires a lead time of two months. It also requires time to disassemble.

The Automobile Club of Monaco pointed out in its press release that the principality is facing problems with cross-border restrictions on workers. The microstate sits between France and Italy. It relies on labor from its two neighbor countries. The Monaco population is 38,000, but more than 25,000 travel from France every day, with another 4,000 from Italy. Most of those workers building the racetrack—who number 1,500—are from France or Italy.

Work was just beginning for the May 24 race, and so a decision was required rapidly to avoid money being wasted. There will still be a financial hit for organizers.

Logically, all of this could be pushed back on the calendar, but there are other considerations that need to be taken into account. The country has a strong tourist industry, but that will evaporate this summer as people stop traveling because of the COVID-19 coronavirus. That will impact the country’s cash flow.

Monaco is also heavily dependent on one company—the Société des Bains de Mer, a publicly traded firm that operates leisure facilities, such as hotels, restaurants, convention centers, casinos and golf courses. It is heavily dependent on Monaco with 52 of its 58 properties being in the principality. It is Monaco’s largest employer.

Pushing the Grand Prix back might have been possible for Monaco but would have impacted other events that would not move their dates if the coronavirus outbreak abates later in the year.

The second factor is that the F1 calendar late in the year is filled with races, and there is no space. Add in the fact that there are different rates of growth of the spread of coronavirus in different countries. That makes finding a new date for Monaco difficult, knowing there would need to be a clear decision two months or more ahead of the date chosen to allow for course setup.

It seems that the Automobile Club de Monaco decided it is wiser to avoid wasting money.

Monaco is a wealthy place, but wasting money is not something that governments or public companies want to do. Monaco has been a permanent fixture on the F1 calendar since 1955, although the event itself dates back to 1929.

In the early part of its history there were a number of years when the race did not take place. This was due to financial problems and wars.

In 1950, there was a race, but a year later because of a relative lack of competitive cars it was called off because of fears that it would lose money. The race returned in 1952 but was held for sports cars only, and there were no races in 1953 and 1954 because of financial considerations.

Monaco is a place where money talks loudest—and this time, race organizers heard that message loud and clear.

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