It might come as a surprise to some that Monaco – that playground of the rich and famous; the frivolous bucket list item you’ve set aside for when you win the lottery – can actually cater quite well to fans on a budget. Most circuits have some general admission areas and Monaco is no exception. If you don’t mind shunning the glamour for an early start and sore feet, these low-cost options offer the chance to experience the magic of Monaco at a fraction of the cost of grandstand seats.

Unlike most circuits where a general admission ticket means the freedom to walk around much of the circuit, seeing the track from various angles and discovering a spot you like best, Monaco has just two unconnected areas classed as general admission – La Rocher and Z1.

Each requires a separate ticket so if you have a ticket for Sector Rocher, you wouldn’t be able to go into Z1 with the same ticket, and vice versa. You can still walk around Monaco, it’s a free principality, but your views of the track will be limited to the area specified on the ticket.

Another area these tickets differ from other general admission tickets is availability. These areas only have limited capacity so unlike other tracks where you can usually buy general admission tickets right up to the week of the event, in Monaco they do sell out.

So what is the general admission experience like and out of La Rocher and Z1 which is the best?

La Rocher

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Le Rocher – sometimes called Sector Rocher or just ‘the Rock’ – is a steep hill between the Rascasse / Anthony Noghes corners below and the Palace above. For years this was Monaco’s only real option for the budget-conscious. Up to the 90’s, fans could even come and watch here for free. 

Le Rocher has its lovers and its haters. Some fans come back year on year to Le Rocher for what they consider exceptional value in an otherwise very expensive place. Others vow to never return.

la rocher monaco
La Rocher, as viewed from Grandstand L

The Good

The most popular views really are fantastic, offering a wide panorama from the exit of the tunnel, right down to the lower end of the grid and pit lane entrance. That includes all along the waterfront and around to the exit of Anthony Noghes – where the cars are closest. It’s unlike any other view in Monaco and better than some grandstands. There’s even a giant TV screen to keep up with the race. 

What really makes La Rocher special though is the one of a kind atmosphere. Bonding over their struggle against adversity and the hip, outsider status of the Rock, folk seem to be in better spirits and more sociable than in the grandstands. Which is just as well considering how close together fans are.

The Bad

Just as the streets of Monte Carlo weren’t really designed for F1 cars, La Rocher wasn’t designed for F1 spectators. It’s a conveniently placed hillside, but a hillside nonetheless. This is a no-frills experience and comfort is not included on the rock. There are no bleachers or viewing platforms and having a good view is not guaranteed. You’ll be competing for space not only with your fellow F1 fans but with local wildlife in the form of shrubs and trees, the branches of which can get in the way of having a clear view of the track.

The steep rocky ground isn’t for everyone either. If you have any mobility issues or are a bit unsteady on your feet this is something to keep in mind. There are paths but you’ll most likely have to go off-piste to jostle around for a good spot.

Speaking of jostling, the area gets quite crowded and it’s hard to move around once it fills up. Some fans report feeling claustrophobic, so if you’re that way inclined this will be another variety of discomfort to deal with. 

So the complaints are justified. From some vantage points, the views are so disappointing it’s not even worth the effort to get to the track let alone the ticket price. When you consider the costs involved for travel and accommodation in the region and maybe a day off work, the fact that the tickets were only €100 won’t be much consolation.

Tips for spectators at La Rocher

For the adventurous souls still reading, having the best experience at La Rocher will come down largely to how well you can see the track action. What it really comes down to is where you are on the hill and how far are you willing to go to bag the best spot.

If you are going to do La Rocher, do it right. Quite a few fans camp out overnight before the Grand Prix and others even go to the bother of securing fold up chairs with a bike lock. I would suggest you follow these tips:

  • Get there early – 6am and no later. Camping out overnight on the hill is even better.
  • It’s better to go as a group so there is always someone to look after your place.
  • Have all the food and drink you need for the duration of your time on the hill, especially if you’re going solo.
  • Take a mat or chair to sit on for more comfort. Even if you need to stand to see the track you’ll be glad of it between sessions.
  • Bring a pair of binoculars or a zoom camera lens to see the cars on the other side of the harbour and the timing info on the screen.

Last of all, lower your expectations. These are cheap F1 tickets for any circuit, let alone Monaco. Even if you sleep through the alarm and arrive to find you’ll be examining a tree trunk for the afternoon you can still enjoy the atmosphere, pinch yourself that you’re at the Monaco Grand Prix and go home proud that you survived The Rock.

Z1 General Admission Area

Z1 is located beside the straight that connects the Nouvelle Chicane and Tabac. The harbour setting makes you feel in the heart of the action and the backdrop of yachts bobbing up and down in the harbour is unmistakably Monaco.

This is a very different kind of general admission experience to La Rocher. Unlike the sprawling, panorama provided from a spot on the distant hillside, Z1 is trackside and loud, the closeness emphasizing the speed of the F1 cars around the narrow streets.

The view may be of a much smaller section of track, but it’s one of the best. The area nearest Tabac features clear views of the fast left-hander, one that many Monaco regulars and F1 insiders consider a prime viewing area. To an expert’s eye, how a car handles through Tabac can tell a lot about a car’s performance around the circuit. Beyond that is the turn into the first swimming pool chicane.

Z1 is improved by a two-level viewing platform that gives some much-needed elevation to an otherwise flat area. As with any general admission area though you’ll need to arrive early and secure a good place. Up and to the left is a giant screen though it won’t be possible to see it from most places so keeping up with the story of the race can be difficult.

La Rocher vs. Z1 – which one is better?

For my money, the best views Sector Rocher has to offer easily trump those from Z1. But that only tells half the story and while the epic view and unique atmosphere enjoyed by this hill tribe of F1 fanatics might attract many, the logistics and lack of creature comforts is an understandable turn off for some.

For fans roughing it on the Rock the glamour that Monaco is known for seems about as distant as the million-dollar yachts that adorn the principality’s harbour.

If not exactly glamorous, Z1 can at least feel more refined with it’s nearby permanent toilet facilities and a spattering of local cafes.

If you have your mindset on general admission but scrambling around to find the best spot between the foliage of a rocky hillside doesn’t appeal, then Z1 might be the better ticket for you.

The great thing is though you don’t have to choose just one. If you’re in town for the weekend you can always split your time between the two and maybe even try a grandstand on another day. With grandstand tickets going for as low as €75 on Thursday, even fans doing Monaco on a tight budget can sample the grandstand life.

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About Me

I’m Danny, an incurable Formula 1 fan for over 30 years and founder of The F1 Spectator. My aim is to inform and inspire, arming you with helpful tips and advice for your next F1 trip.