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A rookie's guide to the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indy 500

An easy-to-understand starter pack for newcomers to the Monaco Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500

Whether you're a Formula 1 fan wanting to watch the Indy 500, an INDYCAR fan wanting to watch the Monaco Grand Prix or a complete newbie to both, we want you to enjoy the biggest weekend of the year.

Because once upon a time, we were just like you. It was the spring of ‘66, we were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but eager and ready to learn, awaiting our very first Monaco Grand Prix. Then four years later, in 1970, we'd repeat that experience by competing in our inaugural Indy 500.

Luckily, we had the great  Bruce McLaren to get us started, and although our founder passed prior to our maiden Indy appearance, his guidance ensured we were ready.

And now you've got us to get you up to speed. We've compiled an easy-to-understand starter pack, providing you with enough information to enjoy the races without overcomplicating it.

When are the races? 

A nice and easy one to start with. Here's when to set your alarms. 

Session  Date  Time 
Monaco Grand Prix  28/05/23  15:00 local / 14:00 BST / 23:00 AET
Indy 500 28/05/23  12:45 local / 17:45 BST / 02:45 AET

Why are these races so famous?

F1: Now, this one's a little subjective, but we think it's safe to say our sentiments are shared. We'll start with a very brief history lesson. Formula 1 is known as the pinnacle of motorsport, and Monaco is its crown jewel – its pièce de resistance, if you will.

First held way back in 1929, the race is steeped in history and tradition. Many of the biggest and best names in motorsport have won the Monaco Grand Prix, and many of the biggest and best names outside of motorsport have attended Monaco Grand Prix. Set in the luxury of Monte Carlo, it's the grandest of stages, and that plays a part in its appeal.

In pure racing terms, it's the greatest test of a driver. The tight and winding streets may not be the ripest for overtaking, but they put a racer's technical ability to trial. With barriers on either side of an intimidatingly narrow track, it requires absolute precision, unwavering bravery, and complete commitment.

The Monaco start/finish line (L) and the IMS Yard of Bricks (R)

INDYCAR: Although the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in its current form has only been around since 1996, the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race dates back to 1911. This will be its 107th race, and like Monaco, winning the Indy 500 – or not winning it - can define a career. Together, they form two-thirds of what is considered to be “The Triple Crown of Motorsport” (the Monaco GP, the Indy 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans).

The Indy 500 - and the trophy you receive for winning it - is gargantuan, both literally and metaphorically, with days of pre-race build-up, including a parade in downtown Indianapolis, and an expected 300k crowd.

Although the two events are similar in stature, they provide entirely different challenges. While Monaco is a technical circuit, as described above, the Indy 500 is a gruelling 200-lap full-throttle charge from start to finish.

You also don't get milk for winning at Monaco, but a bottle of the stuff has been gifted to the winner of the Indy 500 every year since Louis Meyer requested a glass upon taking his second victory in 1933.

What is McLaren's history at the events?

F1: Plenty. For a start, it's where our legendary founder Bruce McLaren made his debut for the team back in 1966. And with 15 victories, five more than anyone else, we're the most successful team in its history - a feat we're immensely proud of.

McLaren won nine of 10 races between 1984 and 1993. Alain Prost got the wheels rolling in '84, winning four times before Ayrton Senna took five in a row for the team after that. The winner of the one Monaco GP during that period where we didn't finish first? Senna, the year before he joined McLaren in 1987.

We've had a few other iconic wins since then, too, with Mika HäkkinenDavid CoulthardKimi RäikkönenFernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton all getting a turn on the top step in McLaren colours.

Prost celebrating in Monaco

INDYCAR: Our history book for the Indy 500 doesn't have quite as many pages as the Monaco edition, but it still has a lot packed into it. We entered the event for the first time in 1970 and took our first win through Team Penske two years later.

Our maiden victory as a factory team came via Johnny Rutherford in 1974, and the American went on to finish first for a second time in 1976 before McLaren pulled out of the event after 1979.

We made our return some 38 years later in 2017, teaming up with Andretti Autosport to run Fernando Alonso, and the Spaniard led for 27 laps before retiring due to an expired engine. We were back again in 2019, but in 2020, we formed the team you know today, combining with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports to create Arrow McLaren. 

Indy 500 image

What are the basics?

F1: The weekend will begin on Friday (sounds great, right?) with two, hour-long practice sessions. A third practice will then take place on Saturday morning ahead of Qualifying.

Qualifying is split into three segments, with positions decided by lap times. The five slowest drivers are knocked out in the first 18-minute segment (Q1), which will set grid places 16-20. Another five will be knocked out after 15-minutes in Q2, setting places 11-15, before a final 12-minute session where the front 10 positions of the grid are set.

Sunday's race will be 78 laps long – approximately an hour and a half – and will include at least one pit-stop, where drivers can change their tyres. Typically, the softer the tyre, the quicker it goes, but the less time it lasts.

The race winner will be the driver who crosses the chequered flag first. They'll stand on top of the podium and be awarded the highest tally of championship points, a trophy, and champagne to spray. Second and third will also receive points, a trophy and champagne, while fourth to 10th all earn points that go towards their overall season tally.

Lando Norris celebrating his 2021 Monaco Grand Prix podium

INDYCAR: To qualify, cars will be slotted by their average speed over four laps. This means the driver needs to be flat out, pushing the car to the absolute limit for 10 miles.

If that isn't enough stress, the top-12 drivers get to do it all over again Sunday morning for Fast 12 qualifying, then hopefully have the chance to qualify once more in the Firestone Fast Six. Once the final six cars qualify, fans will finally know the pole-sitter for the 500-mile race.

The 200-lap race will last around two to three hours and will include pit-stops where the teams can change their tyres and refuel - the latter of which isn't a feature in Formula 1.

Once more, the winner is the driver who crosses the chequered flag first. Every driver on the grid scores points, which promotes competitive racing throughout the field, from the green to chequered flag. Traditionally held on Memorial Day weekend with 33 drivers starting the race, the winner is presented with the most points, the Borg-Warner Trophy - featuring the engraved faces of the winners to date - and a bottle of milk.

The Borg-Warner Trophy is presented to the winner of the Indianapolis 500

Who should I be supporting?

F1: Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri. The youngest duo on the grid. 

Lando is a 23-year-old British racer from Glastonbury. He made his Formula 1 racing debut in 2019 with McLaren and has since scored six podiums with the team, the most recent coming at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in 2022. His most famous podium? He took that on the iconic streets of Monaco, finishing third in the race in 2021. 

22-years-old Oscar hails from Melbourne, Australia and joined us on the back of winning three junior single-seater titles in a row: Formula Renault Eurocup, Formula 3 and Formula 2. The rookie scored two podiums in one weekend last time he raced at Monaco, finishing second in both the F2 Feature race and Sprint Race 2. 


McLaren F1 drivers Lando and Oscar

INDYCAR: There are four names to keep your eye on at the 107th Running of Indianapolis 500, with the legendary Tony Kanaan joining joining full-time drivers Pato O'Ward, Felix Rosenqvist and Alexander Rossi for a one-off race. Unlike in F1, in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, teams are not restricted to just two entries, and McLaren will run Tony as an additional fourth driver in the 107th Indy 500. 

Pato will be entering his fourth Indy 500 with the team, having joined Arrow McLaren in 2020. The 24-year-old Mexican has improved year-on-year at the Indy 500, finishing sixth in 2020, fourth in 2021 and second in 2022. Considered one of motorsport's brightest young stars, he was a title contender last season, winning two races and taking a further two podiums before eventually finishing seventh in the standings. He's currently second in the standings, with three podiums from five races, including  in the GMR Grand Prix at IMS last time out, where he finished second.

Felix is an experienced 31-year-old with an extensive CV. As well as four years in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, the Swedish racer has driven in DTM, Formula E, Super Formula, Super GT and the 24 hours of Le Mans, to name just a few. Currently in his third season with the team, he finished fifth in the GMR Grand Prix at IMS last time out.

Also 31, Alex is another experienced challenger. After growing up in California, Alex headed to Europe in his pursuit for F1, eventually competing for Manor Racing, before returning to the United States to compete in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. In only his fifth start, he won the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, coasting to the finish line without fuel. Alex's impressive CV shows eight wins, seven poles and 33 podium finishes, the most recent coming in the GMR Grand Prix at IMS last time out, where he finished third. 

A glittering career will come to an end in the 2023 Indy 500, with Tony Kanan announcing that the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 will be his final chapter in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The 48-year-old, 17-time race winner finished first in the 97th running of the Indy 500 in 2013 and finished in third-place finish in the race last May.

2023 Indy 500 drivers

So, there you have it, you're all set to enjoy the biggest and best weekend of the year. If you want to dive deeper into either of the two events, then check out the articles below. You can also show your support to our teams on social media using #FansLikeNoOther. 

You can keep up with all of the action on our social media channels, and the McLaren App. if you want to get even closer to the action, you can become a McLaren Plus member for free and be a part of the most inclusive, rewarding and accessible fan programme anywhere in motorsport.  

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