Monaco 2000 - better than ever!

My trip to Monaco 2000 was my sixth Formula 1 race visit and the third time I visited the Monaco GP! I just love the atmosphere of Monaco and enjoy to see the drivers and cars so close, to walk trough the pit lane and through the famous tunnel of Monaco by night, while watching the ships and boats and just enjoy the breathtaking view. And there are situations which you can only see in Monaco like there have nearly been some car crashes with Formula 1 cars in the evening traffic on the roads of Monaco...

However this race visit in Monaco was different to the ones before: I always wanted to stay in Monaco instead of Nice, because I thought it would be easier to access the track soon in the morning and see the first practice sessions, which I sometimes missed when I stayed in Nice and had to go to Monaco in full trains. So, this was the first (and probably last) time I stayed in Monaco.

The flight was planned to be leaving Zürich on Wednesday evening at 20:20 h, but because of some construction work, the flight was late by about 40 minutes. The bad thing about this was, that we didn't have the booked helicopter flight as the heliport in Nice was closed at the time we arrived. However, we had a drive with a Mercedes from Nice to Grand Hotel Monte Carlo, where we stayed (the ex-Loews hotel, next to the Loews corner). We were hungry by the time we arrived and decided to go and search for an open restaurant and walked some parts of the race track, just to find out, that all the places were about to close and no more food available. So, we decided to walk back to the hotel, and ordered some spaghetti bolognaise in the morning at 2:00 am! That's the good thing about such a hotel: They have a 24-hours room service with warm food and the food was less expensive than I thought!

For the Thursday practice sessions, we were allowed to watch them from the hotel terrace on top of the hotel, where they had a swimming pool and a fitness centre (we didn't actually use any of these). It was really an absolutely great place for taking pictures! I had a digital camera and my other camera with me. Here are some of the pictures I made there:

- Jean Alesi in Loews corner
- Nick Heidfeld in Loews corner
- Rubens Barrichello in Loews corner

As always in Monaco, there was no Formula 1 on Friday, so we were just looking around a little and I mainly wrote all the postcards and just enjoyed the beautiful weather which stayed the same way the whole weekend long. We also realised, that staying in Monaco was not really an advantage regarding to the walking we had to do to get to the track, as all the roads and ways in the city were closed so we had to walk up a stair with hundreds of steps!!! When we finally arrived up there we were almost out of breath and then we had to walk down the whole way again! Walking in Monaco you really see, that it's built on a mountain!

For Saturday we stayed on grandstand W which is not really a great place to see the race (also depending on the exact seat number), but mainly it's great to see drivers walk by to the pits as there is no other way for the drivers to get there! So, I was able to make lots of pictures (including some of the professor Alain Prost himself). It was the first time since 1993 that I was able to take pictures of Alain or saw him, so you can surely imagine, how excited I was!!! As you all know, some of the cars get weighted during the qualifying session and the weighing-machine was right in front of grandstand W, so again I could take some good pictures of the cars! Jacques Villeneuve seemed very angry when he got weighted, for what reason ever... And short before the end of the qualifying session, I nearly couldn't believe my eyes: Andrea De Cesaris was sitting on the grandstand just a few rows in front of us. Some of you might not know him, but I'm sure the old Prostists do know him! As I have never actually met him before and didn't see him on TV or in magazines for quite a long time, I was not completely sure if it was really him, but I just jumped through the rows to him and got my programme signed by him. This was nice, especially as nobody else seemed to know him. Unfortunately he was then walking away and I wasn't able to take a picture of him – well, actually, I have made one of his back head with his curly hair, ha, ha... - but I won't post it here as it's not good enough! After that we were eating dinner at Stars & Bars, which is a neat American restaurant just next to the paddocks and I saw some more drivers, like Nick Heidfeld and Marc Gené. Philippe Streiff was also there in his wheel-chair and Thierry Boutsen talking to Roger Benoit from newspaper Blick.

For race Sunday we knew we didn't want to walk up the stairs again, so we decided to get up very early in the morning (about 4:00 am!), so we could just walk on the race track to our grandstand before they would close the track (which was planned for 6:00 am! That's what we did and it was great and it looked like there have been people who didn't go to bed at all. It was so nice to see the ships and city with the many lights by night!! When we arrived on the grandstand, the mechanics just started their work in the pits and pulling the cars into the pit lane! Then we watched the warm-up and the driver parade and I have been able to get some more driver photos done! After lunch time I was walking by the paddocks and first saw Alain Prost drinking an espresso and I was able to make some photos, but while I was searching for the digital camera to make some additional pictures, Alain must have been going away from the table and when I looked up again his seat was empty. I was disappointed about that but happy at the same time that I saw him again at least. Then I saw Jacques Laffite and asked him if I could get an autograph of him, while Jacques Villeneuve was arriving and starting a talk with Jacques Laffite. So, I said: "Well, if it's possible I would like an autograph of both Jacques!!!" So, Jacques Villeneuve answered "Of course!" and they both signed on my programme! But even better I met Keke Rosberg right after this and he signed me his photo I accidentally brought with me, and it was going on as I took some pictures of Mika Häkkinen with his wife Erja, Marc Gené again and some others. I have never before seen so many drivers so close to me in such a short time or got so many autographs in such a short time.

Soon after my arrival back on the grandstands, the race started with the warm-up lap, but we saw that the car of Alexander Wurz was smoking when he entered the pit lane, which was the reason that there had to be a second start. The second start was even more confusing with reds flags coming out because of a computer error, followed by a bigger crash in the Loews corner with Jenson Button, Pedro De la Rosa and some other drivers involved (unfortunately also Nick Heidfeld). Well, you all know how the race went, so we saw Michael Schumacher, who was clearly leading before his car problems, driving slowly to the pits and short time after that he walked by in front of our grandstand under the applause of the public. All the Ferrari- and Schumacher-fans were very disappointed, of course, but for the McLaren fans the party started. Nick Heidfeld made the best result for Team Prost this year so far, but an 8th place is not really fantastic anyway. Jean Alesi drove a great race before his Prost had technical problems, Nick was stuck behind a Minardi for nearly the whole race, so... The race itself was not really fantastic regarding to the results, but quite exciting anyway and I was happy for our Swiss Team Sauber as well.

On Monday evening, we finally had the booked helicopter flight which was nice but not really as special as I thought it would be. But I enjoyed it, of course... Now, I'm back in "normal" life again and have to wait for about one year until I will be in Monaco again...

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To! © by Oskar Schuler, Switzerland