A what's on guide to GP weekend.
It is one of the most eminent sporting events in the world, bringing a who’s who to a tiny country for the past 90 years: the Monaco Grand Prix. From movie stars to billionaires, and from royalty and glitterati, the last weekend in May signals four days of lightning-fast racing around twisty streets with every balcony, hotel suite, yacht deck and possible patch of the Principality inhabited by those eager to watch the action.
Then again, the action on the track is nothing compared to what happens at night. Unparalleled in the F1 calendar to any other race, as the sun sets (and even before the race begins), Monaco stands atop the podium in the party stakes and outrageous stories, like when Lord Hesketh flew in vintage champagne and lobster to “calm his nerves,” his helicopter landing mere yards from the portside race pits. Post-race, drivers rejoice (or drown their sorrows) at the Bar American at the Hotel de Paris, often with the winner’s trophy propped up on the bar. But since the heyday of the Sixties and Seventies, a treasured few hip spots have continued to dominate in a hard-fought battle for nightlife supremacy.
Hands down, since the day it opened in 1974, the “temple of clubbing” in Monaco has been SBM-owned Jimmy’z. Anybody who is anybody has happily plunked down a seemingly stupid amount of money for a surprisingly small amount of square footage in order to rub shoulders (literally) with fellow revelers—F1 drivers, team owners, supermodels—during the F1 weekend. After years of hosting a thousand Super-VIPs inside with another 1,500 lining up outside, Jimmy’z Monte-Carlo debuted a more spacious and open design in June 2017 following a multi-million euro refurbishment. A trio of legendary DJs spin over the GP weekend with Princess Charlene typically hosting Saturday night in benefit of her foundation.
Pretty much any final tab presented at Jimmy’z, where a mineral water costs €28, has raised an eyebrow or two and this spurred Sonia Irvine, sister of former F1 driver Eddie, to launch Amber Lounge in 2002. (Amber was a random word chosen from the dictionary.) The former physiotherapist for the Ferrari team is now seen as a “pioneer of F1 nightlife experiences.” As Kimi Räikkönen, Alfa Romeo Racing F1 driver, puts it: “Every Formula 1 driver has Amber Lounge on speed dial after a race; it’s the only place to celebrate with friends and team members.”
The traveling pop-up nightclub (Monaco, Singapore and Abu Dhabi) caters to big corporate types who must defend their client hospitality-cum-nightlife spending come Monday morning and whose guests would rather avoid a large bill. F1 drivers (this year wearing Canadian designer Christopher Bates) hit the catwalk for the Friday charity fashion show benefitting Race Against Dementia, launched by Sir Jackie Stewart, where bids have been known to reach €50,000. Over three days, Amber Lounge guests frequently party until the sun comes up, with an unlimited amount of alcohol “free.” On Sunday night, the Methuselah Table with dance floor position, dinner, Methuselah of champagne plus Jeroboam of vodka throughout the night costs €26,250 while an individual club pass with terrace seating will set you back €840. Expect a new twist to this year’s Saturday scene.
Of course, if daytime partying is your thing, the 3-day Sunset Monaco at Le Meridien Beach Plaza offers a midday-to-midnight beach party that echoes the original craziness (though not quite) of Sea Lounge. In the 90s and 2000s, the Monte-Carlo Beach played host to some of the most decadent post-race partying, including epic champagne wars, with cases of bubbly brought in on dollies, carts, wheelbarrows—whatever would carry the load—for the sole purpose of soaking as many of the revelers as possible.
Grand Prix day-trippers can also hit Nikki Beach on the Fairmont Monte-Carlo rooftop and chill with four guest DJs—The Avener, Kungs, Jimmy Sax and Jack E. Minimum spending per person for a poolside package ranges from $500 to €1500, depending on the day. After 11 p.m., head downstairs to the pop-up nightclub Cirque Le Soir at the hotel’s Salle d’Or, where Dubai’s premier superclub BASE Dubai will take you into the early hours.
One place you will not find champagne being sprayed is onboard the gleaming yachts in Port Hercules, the largest of which pay €128,000 a day to moor during Grand Prix week. Nothing epitomizes the beau monde of Monaco’s envious nightlife more than partying under the stars on a superyacht, with the lights of the palace and the casino acting as twinkling bookends in the backdrop. After 14 years of hosting the global elite, My Yacht Group’s annual Friday charity reception is the champion of yacht bashes, with a guest list ranging from astronauts to prime ministers, and from billionaires to Fortune 500 and global CEOs—who have a combined net worth of around €80 billion. As the event helps raise awareness for the Prince Albert II Foundation, the prince usually pops in for a visit and catches up with fellow Olympians, including bobsledder Nicholas Frankl, CEO MyYacht Group (Art Week Hong Kong, Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, St Barts High Season). Frankl, whose father is a veteran F1 journalist (see p. 38), personally curates the evening making sure that as the crowd downs over 200 bottles of €300 champagne, egos, as with everyone’s shoes, are checked at the gangplank. Tickets are limited (€3,000/couple), but the party is also included in the VIP weekend yacht pass (€8,500 a person).
Finally, once you've slipped back into your shoes, the last stop of the night (or the first of the morning) is at the institution that is Le Tip Top on avenue des Spélugues, where huge hot pizzas, cold beers and re-living the night’s exploits are de rigueur.