A (half) lap of the Monaco Grand Prix circuit


It's where the playboys do business, where tax dodgers reside and is home to more millionaires than The Sunday Times Rich List – but this weekend, Monaco is playing host to the biggest show on earth, the Formula One Grand Prix.

AOL Cars has been lucky enough to get a ticket to the most iconic F1 race on the planet and will be reporting live from the event all weekend. We've just arrived at the Columbus Hotel, owned by David Coulthard no less, and have witnessed the razzamatazz already in full swing.
> Just yards from our hotel a traffic jam that could only stack up in Monaco is creating one hell of a racket as helicopter after helicopter shuttles in the rich and famous – many of them film stars rounding off their week on the Cote d'Azur after the Cannes Film Festival.

We're not (just) here for the parties though. We're here to see one of the most exciting seasons in Formula One step up to the big stage as the European leg of the world's greatest motorsport steps into the fast lane.

Brit Lewis Hamilton was fastest in free practice yesterday and told The Times today that he was determined to beat Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg. Again. We'll see how that plays out in Qualifying tomorrow.

First on my agenda is a lap of the famous circuit in Infiniti's BMW 3 Series-sized Q50. The car is the first from the manufacturer designed with European markets specifically in mind and in the UK it is hoping to catch the eye of company car drivers.

As we climb behind the wheel our attention is more focussed on the iconic surroundings than the Q50's drive-by-wire steering. I'd like to be able to tell you how smooth the engine was or how brilliant the multimedia system is – but I'd be lying if I was paying any attention to it whatsoever as we pulled on to the circuit.

I've driven the Monaco circuit before – however the last time was in a battered 15-year-old Honda Civic. Back then it wasn't race weekend and although still pretty magical it wasn't nearly as breathtaking as today.

With Armco in place, advertising hoardings and grandstands erected, the city is transformed from billionaire bolt hole to motorsport mecca.

We drive over the start line and the roads are packed – there are already thousands of people here, rubbing shoulders with the super rich, getting a taste of how the super wealthy live.

Rolling into Casino Square – jam packed with Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Porches all soaking up the atmosphere just as we are – a shiver is sent down my spine. No circuit in the world is as memorable, or as beautiful, as this one.

There may be traffic on the road and humans everywhere, but you can instantly understand why drivers and fans alike regard this street circuit as the absolute pinnacle of motorsport.

The Grand Hotel Hairpin is heaving with mobile phone-wielding Instagrammers, every corner is so picturesque, every apex bringing back memories of races gone by, that you can't help capture and share it.

As we head towards Portier – the famous corner Ayrton Senna crashed out on in 1988, handing victory to team mate Alain Prost – a stern policewoman wards us off trying to drive through the tunnel and our half a lap of the street circuit is over.

Monaco is getting ready for lock down. The barriers are coming in. The rich are landing. And the world's most talented drivers are waiting for their moment to shine in the South of France sun. Let battle commence...

Read the AOL Cars first drive of the Infinti Q50 here.