Monaco: The one Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso & Raikkonen all want

Formula 1 dons its finest tuxedo and climbs aboard its super yacht this weekend for the most glamorous event on the calendar - the Monaco Grand Prix.

Crucial qualifying

Olivier Panis ' win from 14th on the grid in 1996 in the Ligier is the only time in the last 20 years a driver has won from further back than third

For four days each year, the tight and twisty streets of Monte Carlo are transformed into an Armco barrier-lined race track.

While tweaks to the layout over the years have diluted the challenge a little, the race remains one of the most testing on the calendar and is one every driver wants to have on their CV.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso believes Mercedes - who have started on pole in the last three races - are the team to beat, with overtaking notoriously difficult. Will the double world champion be proved right?

The track

If Monaco was to pitch its race as a new addition to the calendar in the modern era, motorsport's governing body, the FIA, wouldn't give it a second look on safety grounds.

So it says something about the event's massive appeal that it remains on the calendar - having become a staple since 1955.

The fans, sat in grandstands, relaxing on yachts or huddled up on a slope that straddles the 3.3km circuit, will rarely get closer to the action than in Monaco.

Nico Rosberg crashes in Monte Carlo

Nico Rosberg crashes at the exit of the tunnel in Monaco

The average lap speed is just 151kph, with drivers on full throttle for 54% of that lap - compared to 83% at somewhere like Monza which hosts the Italian Grand Prix - but the illusion of speed remains.

The circuit features the slowest corner of the calendar - the Fairmont hairpin - where drivers manage just 46kph and also one of the quickest; the flat-out kink through the famous tunnel that spits cars out on the run to the chicane next to the harbour, which is a notorious accident black spot.

The venue

Monaco is unique - and tiny. The narrow track is squeezed into the 1.9-square kilometre Principality. Only Vatican City is a smaller country. As a result, it has the smallest capacity of all the circuits at 37,000, but that matches the size of its population - so race weekend is pretty busy.

It's the only circuit to feature a tunnel, which challenges the drivers concentration as they go from bright sunlight to darkness back to bright sunshine again on one of the fastest parts of the circuit.

Silver success

McLaren are the most successful team in Monaco, winning 15 of the previous 70 races

The track does not have a podium, with the top three drivers walking up to the royal box to receive their trophies, while practice is held on a Thursday so roads can be opened up to the public on Friday to minimise disruption.

Many drivers - such as Paul di Resta and Nico Rosberg - live in Monaco which means the commute to their cockpit is the shortest of the year, while fans who have got the cash can enjoy the race from the deck of a yacht in the harbour or one of the many luxury hotels which line the circuit.

And it is always the place to be if you're into celebrity-spotting, with a host of A-listers gracing the paddock and enjoying the hospitality in the land of high-flying excess, glamour and glitz.

What the drivers say

Analysis

On one level, the Monaco Grand Prix is all wrong. It's hard to find a more distasteful display of shameless opulence, and there is no hiding from the fact that the race exists largely to make Formula 1 a lot of money.

And in some ways, it's not a 'race' at all. Even in these days of fast-degrading Pirellis and so much overtaking it can make some people's heads spin, the tight confines of the Principality pretty much guarantee the grand prix will, for the most part, be a procession.

But somehow none of that matters. Monaco, for all its limitations, remains a unique test of a Formula 1 driver and his car.

To watch a leading driver wrestle his mount through corners such as Casino, Tabac and, most of all, the first part of the Swimming Pool, is to be reminded that grand prix drivers are not as other men; that, no, you could not do this yourself.

It is a spectacle like no other, one of the truly great weekends of the sporting calendar, whether car racing is your thing or not. For that, you can forgive almost anything.

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel: "Monaco is one of my favourite tracks and driving it is an absolute challenge. You can't even make the smallest mistake; if you do, you're lucky if it's just that your lap time is bad. If you're not paying attention, you'll end up in the barrier."

Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen: "As a real special race there is nothing like Monaco; there is no better feeling than to get things going well there. It is very, very difficult - almost impossible in fact - to have a clean weekend down there."

Ferrari's Felipe Massa: "I like the Monaco track a lot, partly because it's my second home race, given I live there. Grid position is much more important than at any other track and so we hope we can do well right from Saturday."

McLaren's Sergio Perez: "It's not just the track that makes Monaco special; it's the atmosphere as well. The grandstands are closer to the track here than anywhere else on the calendar. The huge grandstand between Tabac and the Swimming Pool can get pretty noisy when it's full."

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton: "Perhaps more than at many other tracks, qualifying and getting the best possible track position is crucial in Monaco, but we have to keep our focus on Sunday as well and keep working to improve our race pace."

A classic Monaco GP

The 1982 Monaco Grand Prix will go down in history as one of the all-time classics as driver after driver snatched defeat from the wide-open jaws of victory.

Ex-BBC commentator James Hunt said at the time: "Well we've got this ridiculous situation where we're all sitting by the start-finish line waiting for a winner to come past, and we don't seem to be getting one."

Riccardo Patrese spins his Brabham before going on to win the 1982 Monaco Grand Prix

Classic F1 - Monaco Grand Prix 1982 (UK only)

Rene Arnoux shot off into the distance from pole position before he spun down at the Swimming Pool section and stalled his Renault, gifting the lead to team-mate Alain Prost.

The Frenchman looked set to claim victory when, two laps from the end, as rain started to fall, he got out of shape on the exit of the chicane and crashed into the barriers.

Brabham's Riccardo Patrese inherited the lead, but the Italian spun at the Loews hairpin and stalled. That gave Ferrari's Didier Pironi a chance of victory, but he ground to a halt in the tunnel after running out of fuel.

Andrea de Cesaris would have taken over P1, but he too ran out of fuel in his Alfa Romeo while Derek Daly had a shot in his Williams but his gearbox seized up.

So victory went to Patrese - his first in the Principality - almost by default after he managed to get his car rolling downhill to jumpstart it.