If you haven't planned on watching the Grand Prix, then we're going to make a pact right now. You watch Qualifying (Q1, Q2, and Q3) and if you don't like it, then I won't be angry that you missed the race.
The Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix is the most difficult race of the year for Formula 1 drivers, but it is also the one they all want to win. For most racing fans, the Monaco Grand Prix is bigger than the Superbowl, and for Formula 1 fans, making the trek to Monaco for the Grand Prix is a religious experience akin pilgrimaging to Mecca or Jerusalem. Fans bring advertising, advertising brings money, money brings celebrities, and celebrities bring glamour. Monaco is the pinnacle of the triple-crown of racing (Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500, 24 Heures Du Mans), and the most difficult to enter and win.
The circuit is too twisty to get up to speed, The asphalt is too narrow to pass, and the walls are too close to make a mistake. The Circuit de Monaco is literally too dangerous by FIA standards; if someone was to make up a similar track, the FIA would not allow the teams to race due to health and safety restrictions. That said, the track has improved dramatically since the inaugural Grand Prix in 1950. It is the most difficult circuit to pass on, not just in Formula 1, but in the majority of motorsport. Most passing is done under braking after getting up to some relative high speed. The only 'safe' place to pass is coming out of the tunnel (yes, there is a tunnel and it is awesome!) under braking into the Nouvelle Chicane, but the serious racers ignore safety and pass wherever they think they can afford to do so; this leads to a higher than normal amount of crashes.
The speed of Formula 1 cars will perpetually increase, leaving the Charlie Whiting and his staff to redefine the regulations each year to limit how the teams can build their cars. This constant regulation has brought the teams' chasis speed closer and closer together, leaving the constructors and drivers to battle for pole position (1st place on the starting grid) with a 'margin of pole' (made that up, but it sounds good) sometimes within .001 seconds, and with the new format, Q1, Q2, and Q3 makes Qualifying as tense as watching the race.
Here is a video of Jensen Button's Qualifying pole lap from 2009:
I don't see anywhere to pass. Some more Qualifying Laps if you're interested.
The pictures say more than I can. Monaco is home to the rich of the rich, partially because the principality of Monaco is a tax haven and partially because of Monaco's astounding beauty. Most Formula 1 drivers with tens of millions of dollar contracts keep a home in Monaco, including Lewis Hamilton, Jensen Button, Nico Rosberg, Gilles Villeneuve, Ayrton Senna, and David Coulthard.
Fans are packed into every possible crevice, like sardines on a prank pizza. There are fans on the rooftops, there are fans hanging out of windows, there are fans hiding behind the armco, there are fans watching from their yachts, and there are fans that have somehow gotten into the pit garages.
There are celebrities that come to be associated with the race, and then there are stars that come to watch the race; you'll know who's which when the flag waves. You'll see some celebs, so tell your wife when she won't change the channel from The View.
The FIA should not allow a race to take place on these narrow streets surrounding Monte Carlo, but the history and large piles of cash keep Formula 1 coming back each year, not to mention the outrage that would be heard form all of us Formula 1 fans. Ayrton Senna is widely considered to be the greatest Formula 1 driver in the world and has recently had a documentary filmed about his life that brought me to tears. Ayrton Senna won 6 times, and should have won 2 more times if it weren't for last-minute unfortunate circumstances, more than any other driver. Michael Schumacher, you've probably heard of him for his 7 world titles, won 5 times. Wining in Monaco is a proven way to declare your supremacy amongst the rest of the grid.
I don't really care about this part, but I'll say it again: Fans bring advertising, advertising brings money, money brings celebrities, and celebrities bring glamour. Companies have been lifted into stratospheric racing stardom by slapping their mark on this racing weekend. Ever Heard of Martini?
Every year there are all manners of star-studded celebrities walking the grid by permission of either a team owner or Bernie Ecclestone himself. The number of stars that have leached off the glory of Monaco is too great to list out. Every year there are numerous fashion shows, sponsorship sponsored cocktail events, and outrageous yacht parties by the hundreds. Monaco is the Envy of the West. The Grand Prix in all its billionaire funded glamour was most recently featured in Ironman 2, but they got everything wrong about the racing. Ron Howard is coming out with a new film about the struggle between Niki Lauda and James Hunt called Rush. You can bet on Monaco being featured in the film, and you can also bet on Ron Howard attending this years Grand Prix.
Qualifying - NBC Sports
starts at 8 a.m. Eastern time on Saturday May 25.
The Grand Prix - NBC
starts 8 a.m. Eastern time on Sunday May 26.
If these times are too early, then please DVR the race and watch it later. If you don't have a DVR, dust off that old VCR. If you're too cool for a VCR, then I'm sure there will be a way to watch it online. If you are homeless or don't have a computer or TV, then go watch it in a Buy More or your region's equivalent. (Why did they have to cancel Chuck...).
[Pictures from F1 Fanatic]