The Monaco Grand Prix is one of the oldest Formula One races in the world – and one of the most compelling. Not only because anyone who is anyone is in town during this red-letter week, but also because the race winds at breakneck speed through the principality’s narrow and normally sedate streets.
This means, of course, that those with Monaco’s most prized addresses will also often have the benefit of a coveted view of the race. “The Grand Prix is the start of the F1 season and a very exciting time,” says Irene Luke, a partner at Savills’ Monaco office, who also lives on the circuit. “Many buyers will consider property overlooking the track a real advantage.”
If watching the Grand Prix is your priority, then there are, undoubtedly, various enviable vantage points from which to follow this 3.34km race. “There are several signature corners, where incidents often happen,” says Simon Arron, features editor of Motor Sport Magazine. “Monaco is much more immediate than many other Grand Prix locations. If you have a balcony overlooking the track, you can slide back your French windows and be right in the action.”
The Fairmont Hotel (formerly the Loews) hairpin is thought to be among the hardest turns anywhere in Formula One, while the Mirabeau corner, a similarly tight transition between the sweepers in Casino Square and the twisty downhill section leading to Portier, is another. This is also one of the few overtaking spots on this hazardous and demanding circuit – it’s here that Lewis Hamilton came to grief in 2009 – and a number of hotels and restaurants offer a bird’s-eye perspective. If, however, you’re looking for your own private viewing platform, the Résidence Le Mirabeau, at No 1 Avenue Princesse Grace, delivers a personal vantage point in style. Here, international estate agents Knight Frank is selling a number of tastefully equipped apartments, starting from €40,000 per sq m.
The Grand Prix was first held in Monaco in 1929, and the principality hosted the second-ever World Championship in 1950. Since then, the course has remained virtually unchanged, while its surroundings have become increasingly densely fringed with glamorous living space.
Demand for the finest property in Monaco, in or out of the Formula One season, has long outstripped supply, and the market remains as resilient as the race itself. “We felt some impact after the financial problems of 2008-9,” says Jean-Yves Le Graverend, director of long‑established local estate agent John Taylor. “Now we’re back to pre-crisis levels.”
The principality has four traditional quartiers, of which Monte Carlo, where much of the Grand Prix takes place, is the largest, most celebrated and most expensive. Set in a district made legendary in films such as To Catch a Thief, Never Say Never Again and GoldenEye, the innermost ring, which revolves around the Casino, is known as the Carré d’Or or Golden Square and here prices for the finest properties can easily soar to €80,000 per sq m.
“Although the whole of Monaco is only 2sq km in size, some buyers see Monte Carlo and Monaco as synonymous, and won’t even think about renting or buying in other areas,” explains Fred Schiff, a negotiator at Knight Frank.
Those for whom this prime location is a sine qua non may wish to consider a four-bedroom duplex in the Monte Carlo Star (€22.5m through Knight Frank), above the famous tunnel section of the race, or a two‑bedroom apartment looking out onto the Casino Gardens and the sea in Le Millefiori (€7m through John Taylor).
Monaco is primarily a market of flats, and although many of these are nobly scaled and elegantly kitted out, none rivals the latest addition to the cityscape, Tour Odéon, which, on completion later this year, will become the principality’s tallest and most luxurious set of residences (from €17.5m through Knight Frank).
“Most of the apartment blocks in Monaco were constructed in the 1970s and 1980s, when there was not a particularly strong investment in materials and architecture,” says Le Graverend. “Today wealthy international buyers expect the same standard of design, finish and services they get in New York and London, and Tour Odéon can provide this.”
The striking, 170m-high tower has 70 smooth-as-silk apartments, ranging from one to six bedrooms, as well as two duplexes and a five-storey penthouse – and they all have access to the 24-hour concierge, on-site caterers, business centre and spa.
La Condamine, the network of streets adjacent to the famous Port Hercule, also sees plenty of action during the Grand Prix. Those looking for an up-close and intimate prospect of the Ferraris and McLarens, as well as the superyacht-packed harbour, will find it at a slightly more moderate price here.
Rental demand is particularly high in this part of town. “Not long ago, we had an overseas client – a real petrolhead – who was happy to take an apartment unseen in order to be in just the right spot,” says Savills’ Luke, who has let a three-bedroom apartment with a view of the starting line for €12,000 a month.
Of course, not all the action at the race takes place around the circuit, and those wanting to rub shoulders with some of the fastest men on earth on an out-of-hours basis may find it well worth investigating the quiet, westerly quartier of Fontvieille. This calm and pleasant location contains a large park and sheltered harbour of its own, and past and present residents include Formula One legends Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa, Giancarlo Fisichella and David Coulthard.
Here, Knight Frank is currently offering a three‑bedroom penthouse in Les Terrasses du Port, with a private roof-top pool and open sea views, for €35m – the ideal getaway from the smell of the grease and the roar of the crowds.