In Depth

Monaco Grand Prix: Twenty-four-hour party people

Amber Lounge founder, Sonia Irvine, discusses her Ferarri-driving brother Eddie and the only Formula 1 party worth knowing about

My brother Eddie Irvine and I grew up in a rural part of Ireland, a far cry from Monaco. I first became involved in Formula 1 when Eddie went to drive for Ferrari, after just one season racing for Jordan. I'd been working as a physiotherapist and happened to be backpacking around the world when Eddie called me and said 'guess where I am now? I'm in Switzerland, outside the Ferrari offices. Do you want to come and be my physio?' I started off working just for him then I became the physio for the whole Ferrari team as well.

After three incredible years working with Ferrari, I decided I didn't want to continue with physiotherapy, so, when Eddie moved to Jaguar, I started working in the sponsorship side of Formula 1, finding sponsors for different drivers and teams. I created the Amber Lounge concept because, when it came to parties on the F1 circuit, all the marques organised their own events, so there was nothing that brought the drivers together at the end of the races, which was a bit of an anti-climax after so much excitement on the track.

The first Amber Lounge event took place in Monaco in 2003, as a place where the international jet set, royalty, film stars and the Formula 1 fraternity could party day and night during the GP weekend. We've since expanded the Friday night party to include a charity fashion show that's modelled by the drivers of Formula 1 and the women of Formula 1 to raise money for different charities. This year, we're supporting Race Against Dementia through Jackie Stewart, a cause particularly close to my heart, as my mum has dementia and a lot of people don't know that there are almost one million people in the UK suffering from this heartbreaking disease.

When I choose designers to take part in the fashion show, I look for unique collections that really stand out. One of the female designers we're showcasing this year is Silviya Neri, who's better known for creating striking scarves than clothes, so we're very excited to be presenting her beautiful silk beachwear collection. The main female designer is London-based brand SAFiYAA, and the male drivers are being dressed by Apsley in tailor-made suits that will make them look like James Bond – a must in Monte-Carlo!

Our Saturday night party is always a lot of fun, as we have more than 20 entertainers, including dancers and musicians, and this year Chris Willis, who featured on David Guetta's super-hit Love is Gone, will be singing live. We always pick acts that really add to the party and this Saturday the champagne will be flowing and the atmosphere is going to be incredible.

As part of the Amber Lounge experience, we also offer dining at Le Meridien Beach Plaza hotel, where guests can look out over the harbour and see all the boats moored there. We normally tender people from the hotel to Monte Carlo and it's amazing to be on one of those little boats – when you gaze ahead, you can see all the yachts in the harbour, with the glitzy scene of Monte Carlo behind you and the hills beyond that. It's a spectacular sight that will make you come away thinking you've had the best time in Monaco and you can't wait to come back again.

Sonia's tips for Monaco Grand Prix weekend

Where to watch the race

I've lived in Monte Carlo for 16 years and when the Grand Prix comes to Monaco, it completely takes over – there's an amazing buzz. I think the best place to watch the action from is a boat close to the trackside. We run an Amber Lounge Yacht and it caters for everything, as there's an amazing view of the track and there's also a big screen that you can watch the race on. If you just want to take in the sun, relax, socialise, meet people, do business, have drinks and nice food, and watch a little of the race, you can do it all on a boat.

Where to stay

I usually travel around Monaco on my scooter, but Monte Carlo is extremely busy during the Grand Prix and I don't want to have to walk too far or have the stress of getting anywhere. I just want to go outside the hotel and be there, and the only way you can do that in Monaco is by boat, so I recommend people stay at Le Meridien Beach Plaza hotel or the Monte Carlo Bay hotel, where guests can walk down to the jetty and get on a tender that will take them to the port, where they can either get on to a boat or go into the Paddock Club. You also have Hotel Hermitage and Hotel de Paris close to the main square – two beautiful hotels that are very centrally located.

Where to eat

I always go to classic Italian restaurant La Saliere, because it's elegant yet relaxed, with a fantastic view and lovely service. They have a set menu and a lot of Formula 1 drivers go there too. There's another place I like called Anjuna Beach, which is a bit further out near the picturesque village of Eze, but it's worth the drive, as the restaurant is nestled in a secret bay and it feels like you're on a private island when you dine there. If you want a proper brunch in Monte Carlo, Le Meridien is my place of choice on a weekend, as you can't beat sitting on the terrace overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

SONIA IRVINE has worked in Formula 1 for 20 years and founded Amber Lounge, the world's most exclusive night and day Grand Prix Lifestyle experience, in 2003. Amber Lounge is also hosting events in Singapore, Mexico and Abu Dhabi this year, with Amber Summer opening at Le Meridien Beach Plaza hotel in Monaco on 8 June; amber-lounge.com

To book, contact: monaco@amber-lounge.com

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