What better place to hang out in Monaco week than the Stirling Moss suite at the Fairmont Hotel? Yours for €39,900. That gets you four sleeps overlooking the Med. If you want to stay the full week, a negotiation can be had. Star Wars director and Formula One nut George Lucas was in residence on this occasion, and he paid the price on the ticket. No discounts here.
Entry level at this beachside palazzo is €2,000 (£1,620) a night during the grand prix, a fourfold mark up. Lucky for me that I was a guest in one of the 15 suites overlooking the Loews hairpin, arguably the most iconic U-bend ever covered in asphalt.
Monaco is no place for the socially sensitive. Displays of wealth that can only be described as obscene acquire a routine flavour during this mad automotive pageant. Billionaire insouciance is acted out across strategic locations. Witness Mediterranean Man, his portly profile softened by a silk scarf and blazer, thinning hair worn ridiculously long at the collar, reach across the passenger seat of his silver Lambo to peck the geometric cheekbone of a woman 30 years his junior before exiting via a door that opens vertically. All this in front of the Hermitage and repeated 30 minutes later at the Hotel de Paris, etc.
That’s what money buys you, the right to look ridiculous without blushing. Monaco extends barely 600 acres back from the sea, a parcel of land that would fit easily inside the Silverstone complex. And across every inch of it on race weekend groups of opulent guests march behind handsome women holding aloft an identifying placard en route to a balcony to watch more multimillionaires hammer around the same streets in hybrid rockets.
The Fairmont estimates at least 25 per cent of guests could not give a monkey’s about what is happening on the circuit. Most sleep through the race in order to make the start line on the party circuit. To be out after dark in this town is to witness an entirely different kind of competition that involves the pursuit by the male of the species, dressed in Gucci loafers, pink shirts and gallons of aftershave, of the female. Not hard since most of the latter compete in six-inch heels and little else. The race usually ends in Jimmyz behind Casino Square, where a meld of flesh and cash coagulates on the dance floor. Not a pretty sight.
For the aficionado the Loews hairpin offers a window on more than half a century of racing heritage. There is no great speed carried through this sector but plenty of argy-bargy, as we witnessed yesterday with two cars leaving the circuit suspended on the end of a crane. These 21st-century chariots are no quicker than Fangio and Moss through this stretch of road. They twitch and spit at the same rate as those old boneshakers of lore. And that is its charm.
Moss took the third of his Monaco Grand Prix victories in 1961 in a Rob Walker Lotus 18, way undergunned compared to the powerful Ferrari ensemble. It was a back-to-back victory after he had caned the opposition in 1960, too. “Better to lose honourably in a British car than win in a foreign one” was the fabled Moss motto. Not required that day, of course.
In keeping with that sentiment, Moss lists his first Formula One win at Silverstone in 1955 as his finest. It was also the first time a Brit had taken the chequered flag on home turf in the nascent sport. It was perhaps inconvenient, given his British reflex, that he was behind the wheel of a Merc that year. But racing has always been a business and none knew that better than Moss.
Sir Stirling is still the measure by which all others are judged in British racing culture and the ultimate reference for boy racers revving throatily at the lights. He was here a fortnight ago to honour the Fairmont with his presence at the opening of suite 6002, one of four dedicated to legends of the sport. Lewis Hamilton has inherited the Mercedes mantle. He loves this place and has won here in GP2 as well as Formula One.
This was not to be his day. Nico Rosberg was the Mercedes in front at the start. In this era of tech-heavy motoring, that is enough to guarantee the maximum payout in Monte Carlo, barring calamity. Up on the Fairmont balcony, attention turned to the big issue of the day: what to wear to the ball? Anybody seen my loafers?
Kevin Garside flew to Nice with Monarch Airlines
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