Why does the Monaco Grand Prix have a different schedule?
It's Tuesday and already the Formula 1 paddock is gearing up for a weekend of activity in Monaco - but why is this the case? Motorsport Week provides a little insight.
Formula 1 has run with a tried and tested timetable for several years, with practice sessions on a Friday, qualifying on Saturday, and racing taking place on Sunday, with support events working in around the lead championship.
But Monaco is the only event that stands out as an anomaly.
Qualifying still takes place on Saturday, with the 78-lap race on Sunday (albeit at a shorter 260km distance due to the slow average lap time), but free practice takes place instead on Thursday, with media day shifted to Wednesday.
Historically the Monaco Grand Prix weekend coincided with the Christian festival of Ascension, which typically takes place in May, 40 days after Easter Sunday.
It was like that way in 1929 and a four-day weekend has been the norm ever since.
Ascension Day is the day on which Christians believe Jesus travelled and preached with his apostles before ascending into heaven.
With Ascension Day a National Holiday in Monaco, along with a handful of other European countries, it was therefore deemed more suitable to hold practice on a Thursday, with the benefit being that it also minimised the disruption of closing off a substantial portion of the city’s streets.
Formula 1 has kept up the tradition over the years even though life has moved on and the grand prix is no longer fixed around Ascension Day.
Indeed, in 2019 Ascension Day falls on May 30, and not since 2010 have the events intertwined.
It's not the only religious link with the Monaco Grand Prix for the famous Sainte Devote corner (Turn 1) is named after the small centuries-old chapel that is located on the outside of the turn, now dwarfed by the sea of apartment blocks that dominate the Principality.
The different timetable also provides a challenge for drivers in getting back up to speed on Saturday morning, having been knocked out of kilter by their usual rhythm.
Nonetheless, even though Formula 1 does not hit the track on a Friday in Monaco it is hardly the day off that it perhaps once was. Teams now wheel out their drivers for an array of sponsor events (which they of course all adore) and simply adds to Monaco’s unique nature, while also ostensibly extending the period in which the wealthy and well-connected can meet, greet and put pen to paper on deals.
Meanwhile, the quirky schedule also allows the lead junior formula category to take centre stage on Friday. Formula 3000, the GP2 Series and now Formula 2 takes pride of place as the next generation do battle late in the morning, meaning the public roads can re-open at 14:00 local time, facilitating the flow of traffic thereafter.
But don’t worry. We’ll be back on the Friday/Saturday/Sunday routine in Canada.