In focus

Behind the scenes at the Monaco Grand Prix: The ultimate weekend in a billionaire’s playground

The most glamorous weekend of the sporting – and social – calendar offers rich entertainment on and off the track, writes Annabel Grossman

Sunday 26 May 2024 06:00 BST
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(Getty)

Nowhere in the world knows wealth like Monaco. It’s where Ferraris cruise along the Riviera, 70m yachts dot the shoreline, Rolexes peek out of tailored shirt cuffs, and Dom Perignon is sipped on the terrace of the Hotel de Paris.

Throw in the heady, adrenaline-filled rush of a Formula One grand prix and you have perhaps the most glamorous weekend on the sporting, and social, calendar.

This is the race once watched by The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart. Where Grace Kelly brought Elizabeth Taylor as her guest. So if you’re heading over to Monaco this weekend (perhaps from Cannes via a quick jaunt to London for the Chelsea Flower Show), you’ll want to do so with some flair.

Anthony Lassman, owner and founder of Nota Bene Global, a private members’ service with a focus on travel design and curation, says: “So much of this weekend is about status. If you’ve been invited to take prime position at the Grand Prix by someone very high up in F1 – or by Prince Albert of Monaco – you’re not going to do it in half measure, you have to be seen to do it in style.”

So when you’re an ultra-high net worth individual – the elite of the elite – how do you spend this weekend in the principality? When money is no object, you have the world’s best concierges at your fingertips, and the most exclusive town on the Côte d’Azur is your playground. According to Lassman, you start by chartering a yacht (preferably a superyacht).

You’ll notice a string of vessels lining the shore by the F1 track, with spectators watching the race while sipping champagne on their decks – although the largest, most exclusive yachts (some in excess of £100m) will be anchored further out. Hope Dowlen, co-founder of 48 London, (who has also been booking charters for her uber-wealthy clients) says you’d be looking at around £100k a day for a £30m yacht, while anything over £60m or £70m will set you back seven figures for a week-long charter.

Not a fan of sailing? Not a problem. Lassman says that others of his very wealthy individuals will stay at inland estates along the Riviera and hop on a private boat, or maybe hire an ultra-luxurious car, to make their way into town for the race. Ferraris, Lamborghinis and convertible Rolls Royces are favourite choices – and will set you back around £2,000 to £4,000 for a day’s use.

With the traffic being particularly bad over Grand Prix weekend, however, it may be a better idea to hire a heli. The seven-minute flight from Nice is currently selling at around €550 (£470) per seat each way on Blade – and that’s one of the more affordable helicopter options.

If you want to be at the centre of the action, right in the heart of Monaco, then check in to the palatial Hotel de Paris. “Everybody wants to see who’s coming in and out de Paris,” says Lassman. It’s the hotel with the best views of the racetrack and oozes old-school glamour.

Yacht hire costs £100k a day for a £30m vessel, while anything over £60m or £70m will set you back seven figures for a week-long charter
Yacht hire costs £100k a day for a £30m vessel, while anything over £60m or £70m will set you back seven figures for a week-long charter (Amber Lounge )

Rooms here get booked up months in advance over Grand Prix weekend, with a “good-sized suite” with harbour, racetrack and sea views likely to cost around £20,000 a night. But why not go all out and treat yourself to Senate’s most exclusive Hotel de Paris F1 package in the Prince Rainier III Suite?

This 350 square-metre two-bedroom suite overlooking Casino Square enjoys track views, a private pool and butler service, as well as paintings and photographs from the Prince of Monaco’s private collection. For a four-night stay over the F1 weekend, you will be relieved of €450,000 (£383,000) in total – breakfast included.

Another option is Hôtel Hermitage, described by Lassman as “quieter luxury with grand dame”. Senate’s packages here start from £3,400 per night, while the top suites range from €40,0000 (£34,000) to €80,000 (£68,000) for four nights.

For a slightly less traditional hotel with a cooler “edge” to it, head up into the hills where The Maybourne perches on the rocky peninsula of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin overlooking Monaco.

True F1 fanatics eschew sipping rosé on a yacht deck in favour of getting as close to the action as possible
True F1 fanatics eschew sipping rosé on a yacht deck in favour of getting as close to the action as possible (Senate)

The sea views from this “glass box” of a hotel are unparalleled and, while it’s not exactly trackside viewing, you’ll catch glimpses of the track as you gaze down on the principality.

The signature suite, The Maybourne, will set you back €12,750 per night during the Grand Prix weekend, while a grand sea view suite is €8,500 per night and a sea view suite €6,500 per night. The Grand Prix kit, with everything you need to watch the race, including sunscreen and champagne, is included in the price.

But true F1 fanatics might well eschew sipping rosé on a hotel balcony or yacht deck in favour of getting as close to the action as possible in the Paddock. Hope says: “We offer clients the full Grand Prix experience with unique experiences such as garage tours, walking the pit lane, the finest hospitality and the ultimate experience of meeting drivers and key team members to learn more about the craft of the sport.” VIP passes start from around £6,000 per person.

And when race day comes to a close, where else would you blow off steam but the Amber Lounge? It’s renowned for legendary Grand Prix parties, where champagne runs freely and cirque-themed performances entertain guests into the early hours.

For a less traditional hotel, head up into the hills where The Maybourne overlooks Monaco
For a less traditional hotel, head up into the hills where The Maybourne overlooks Monaco (The Maybourne Riviera)

Celebrities including Pamela Anderson, Justin Bieber and Post Malone have been spotted at Amber Lounge parties – and it’s not uncommon for the F1 drivers themselves to rock up on Sunday night. Over the past  20 years, 56,000 bottles of Dom Perignon champagne have been popped at Amber Lounge Monaco, with 200,000 bottles of champagne in total being sipped or sprayed.

This year, racegoers will party on a 30-metre yacht in Monaco, with production for the whole event costing an impressive €1.5m (£1.27m). This makes it hardly surprising that tickets start at €800 for a single entry on the Sunday. If you’ve not yet maxed out your Amex Centurion, you may want to opt for the diamond table, which hosts 10 guests with bespoke table service including a private host, personal waitress, a 6-litre bottle of champagne, 6-litre bottle of premium vodka and selected free flow premium bottles. The price tag is £40,000, but these tables have been known to auction off for up to £70,000.

If guzzling champagne and dancing to DJs until 5am sounds a little too full-on for a weekend of style and sophistication, there are plenty of other ways to celebrate the Grand Prix that will avoid a hangover.

Yachts and Formula One fans are packed in, either side of the track for the Monaco Grand Prix
Yachts and Formula One fans are packed in, either side of the track for the Monaco Grand Prix (Senate)

Hope says: “We organise private parties aboard superyachts and in their villas, complete with a private chef, the finest wines, champagnes and cocktails, DJ and world-class entertainment, bespoke dancefloors just to name a few. We have frequently flown in stylists, hair and makeup artists and grooming experts ahead of parties and masseuses, IV drips and facialists for the morning after.”

48 London also offers more family-friendly post-race entertainment – like inviting a Formula One driver into your home in the shape of a hologram that will party the night away with you.

Hope adds: “We have also been known to have F1 driver outfits made for our clients’ children who really want to immerse themselves into the atmosphere of the day, as well as setting up bespoke racing tracks in the grounds of their home, complete with a winners’ podium and trophy for the kids and adults to try their hand at life as an F1 driver.” These sort of racing-themed parties at your villa can come in at around £30,000 upwards.

And once race day is done, the champagne has been sprayed and the yacht anchor lifted, there’s a whole riviera to explore – head on to St Tropez, stop by Antibes or moor up at Cap-Ferrat for the most stylish and luxurious of the Côte d’Azur.

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