Monaco Grand Prix: Why Is F1 Free Practice Held on Thursday?

Published 05/17/2021, 8:29 AM EDT
MONTE-CARLO, MONACO – MAY 26: Sparks fly as Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo on track during practice for the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 26, 2016 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)


This weekend, the F1 paddock heads to Monte Carlo for the next race of the season. However, it is worth noting that the Monaco race weekend is quite different from regular race weekends. First and foremost, the Monaco Grand Prix follows an unusual four-day format.

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Normally, the Grand Prix weekend begins on Friday with Practice 1 and 2. However, in Monaco, Free Practice 1 and 2 are held on Thursday instead of Friday. After a small break on Friday, normal service resumes on Saturday with Free Practice 3 and qualifying. Finally, Sunday’s race closes out the show and wraps up the Grand Prix weekend.

Why does the Monaco Grand Prix weekend skip Friday?

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Interestingly, the origin of this tradition can be traced back to the iconic race’s debut. Apparently, the 1929 Monaco Grand Prix kicked off on the weekend of Ascension Day. As it turns out, this generally observed as a bank holiday in the province. Owing to this, that Friday weekend witnessed no racing, in order to observe the day.

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FILE PHOTO: McLaren Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (L) overtakes Mercedes Formula One driver Michael Schumacher of Germany during the Monaco F1 Grand Prix May 29, 2011.
Courtesy: Reuters

At the same time, regular traffic was allowed to run through the streets of Monte Carlo. Truthfully speaking, the locals have found the importance of Ascension Day diminishing over the years. In spite of this, every Monaco Grand Prix weekend always observes a Sabbath on Fridays and has become a tradition.

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This is also quite beneficial for local business in the Principality. To be precise, it allows businesses and hotels to replenish their stock and operate at maximum capacity. The respite on Friday and subsequent restocking will be able to tide everyone over during the hectic four-day spell.

Admittedly, this occasional break from the norm was a little odd. However, nobody has really questioned it before, and some of the drivers on the current grid reside in Monaco. So they all may probably know of the traditions. Speaking of which, the drivers will be excited to race at the Principality. Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the F1 paddock from heading to Monaco. However, there are no such issues this year, though everyone is still on tenterhooks.

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Dhruv George

11636 articles

Dhruv George is a senior Formula One and NASCAR analyst for EssentiallySports, having authored nearly 12000 articles spanning different sports like F1, NASCAR, Tennis, NFL, and eSports. He graduated with a PG Diploma in Journalism from the Xavier Institute of Communications. Dhruv has also conducted interviews with F1 driver Pierre Gasly and Moto2 rider Tony Arbolino.

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