The harbour of the small principality of Monaco is one of the hot spots for the international jet set. Row upon row of yachts belonging to the upper crust vie to out sparkle the next, even in the winter Mediterranean sun. A glance in the opposite direction reveals a conglomerate of bars and restaurants, which have popped up around the Stade Nautique Rainier III de Monaco swimming pool. On the far side of this is the Boulevard Albert I. This may not be one of the most beautiful corners of this tiny country on the Mediterranean Sea, but it's the plethora of fine lines that make it a somewhat extraordinary street. Because it is exactly here – in the historical heart of Monaco – where what is probably the craziest Formula One race of the season begins once a year. The fine lines mark the starting grid for the team drivers.
Like flying a helicopter through your living room
At a length of 3,337 meters, the street circuit for the racing cars winds through narrow streets in the La Condamine district and over the Monte Carlo mountain, which hosts the even more famous casino at its peak. Drivers complete 78 laps with 19 tight turns and curves, covering an overall race distance of 260 kilometres. This makes Monaco an exception, as the Formula 1 rules state that a Grand Prix must cover a distance of at least 305 driven kilometres. And no one described the Monaco Grand Prix better than the former Brazilian Formula One world champion Nelson Piquet, who said, "Driving in Monaco is like flying a helicopter through your living room".
The layout of streets is no less exceptional even when the country is not hosting the racing weekend. The narrow thoroughfares of the principality are populated with a spectacular mix of vehicles, with swarms of motor scooters squeezing past the wing mirrors of the closely parked cars. Nowhere else in the world will you find this density of special paintwork finishes and exclusive tuning of compact cars. And in between, you'll also find countless top vehicles from the European premium brands coasting through this small state – a unique quartet of automobiles. You could almost believe that this scene has been painted specifically for the new Volkswagen up! GTI.