Royal confession: Real reason Prince Albert watches Grand Prix from secret friend’s villa

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Lewis Hamilton won his fifth Spanish Grand Prix yesterday and is now just two away from beating Formula One legend Michael Schumacher’s all-time record at the event. Likely watching was Prince Albert of Monaco, whose principality hosts the famous and arguably most luxurious event – the Monaco Grand Prix – every year. Hamilton won the 2019 Monaco race and was tipped to do the same this year when the event should have been held in May.

Yet, with the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown, F1’s authorities were forced to abandon any hope of holding the race.

Watching last year’s event the BBC captured Prince Albert enjoying the sport from an unlikely venue – the apartment of a friend.

Space during the race is at a premium, with Albert keen on allowing as many people as possible to spectate as money spent during the event makes up a considerable slice of revenue for his sovereign state.

Often mingling among the rich and the famous – such is the nature of Monaco – Albert described the reason for why he watches the race from his friend’s grandiose apartment, panoramic views of the harbour and all, during the documentary Inside Monaco: Playground of the Rich.

He said: “So this is the apartment that we use every year during the Grand Prix.

“A friend of ours kindly lets us use his apartment because he leaves Monaco during the Grand Prix weekend and so we can use this to entertain family and guests.

“You can see it’s a pretty nice view.”

Here, director Michael Waldman asked: “I’m going to be really cheeky – presumably you don’t pay to rent this apartment?”

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Briefly pausing, Albert laughed and replied simply: “No.”

Monaco enjoys a sharp spike in revenue during the Grand Prix.

Albert explained: “The impact of the Grand Prix, direct or indirect, is approximately around a €100million (£90mil) a year.”

That’s around six per cent of Monaco’s annual revenue.

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Without any revenue from income tax, the principality relies on VAT.

It charges 20 percent on every sale.

This means that the more money spent in Monaco, the more revenue the principality makes.

The documentary makers find a bottle of champagne which costs €28,000 (£25,000) – with every bottle sold raising over £5,000 in tax.

The estimated number of people who visit Monaco during the course of the Grand Prix is 200,000 – more than five times the country’s population.

The event’s cancellation would have made for a bitter blow to the country’s economy.

It was announced in March earlier this year that for the first time since 1954 “Monaco’s streets will not echo to the sound of F1 machinery”.

In a statement the Automobile Club de Monaco (ACM) said: “The current situation concerning the worldwide pandemic and its unknown path of evolution, the lack of understanding as to the impact on the FIA F1 World Championship 2020, the uncertainty with regards to the participation of the teams, the consequences with regards to the differing measures of confinement as taken by various governments worldwide, the multi-border restrictions for accessing the Principality of Monaco, the pressure on all implicated businesses, their dedicated staff who are unable to undertake the necessary installations, the availability of the indispensable workforce and volunteers (more than 1500) required for the success of the event means that the situation is no longer tenable.”

It added that “under no circumstances will it be possible to organise these events later this year”.

The race will now take place in May 2021.

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