With Formula One circus heading to the Mediterranean Riviera next weekend, the West media office has decided to offer a 'beginner's guide' to surviving what is widely regarded as the toughest race week of the year.

The clich? most used to describe the Monaco Grand Prix is that it is the 'jewel in the crown' of Formula One, but ask any hard-working mechanic what he thinks of this famous race and he will use a phrase which we simply cannot publish in case your children are reading!

If the Monaco event had not been on the calendar for half a century, the F1 teams would simply not contemplate going there if it was suggested as a venue today. A narrow, twisting dangerous street circuit, it is totally unsuited to modern grand prix cars, which rush round it like caged beasts in a zoo.

The working conditions are by far the worst of the year. Teams have to prepare the cars under awnings slung from their trucks, before towing them into the pit-lane prior to the start of every session. The pits themselves resemble a series of market stalls - albeit very expensive ones, given their contents.

But everything is expensive in Monaco - so much so, that it should be called 'Money-co'. The 30,000 inhabitants, including several grand prix drivers, live in tax-free splendour in an area of just two square kilometres, making it one of the most densely populated countries in the world. However, don't expect to find chaos and disorder as, just like grandma, the government here believes that there is a place for everything and everything should be in its place.

There appear to be almost as many policemen as people - okay, so policemen are people too - and they tackle their duties with whistle-blowing zeal. They don't get to write many speeding tickets during race week, as traffic, swelled by thousands of visitors and hampered by closed roads, moves at a snail's pace. Indeed, having a car in Monaco is about as much use as owning a lawnmower in Venice!

The best way to approach Monaco is by helicopter from Nice Airport. This will make you feel very rich and get you in the habit of spending vast sums of money for the basic necessities of life. Nothing here is a luxury - the residents need gold toothpicks, they cannot live without a daily dose of Bollinger champagne and their pet poodles must have diamond encrusted collars.

Monaco is all about partying, and the frogmen who bob around in boats on the harbour during F1 practice - in case a car flies into the sea - are actually kept busier fishing drunks out of the harbour, after they've consumed one drink too many on the yachts which are crammed into the port for the week. With Friday being a day off at this event, you might even spot a grand prix driver sipping an expensive beer in 'Stars 'n Bars', the most popular watering hole among the F1 folk.

More serious money is required to join the elite at 'Jimmyz' nightclub, where minor royals rub shoulders with men in shiny suits who have made millions manufacturing extruded plastic widgets. Their motto is that nouveau is better than no riche at all, and they are accompanied by young blondes who are studying for a PhD in suntanning.

A quieter time can be had by climbing up the mountain to the quaint old town, where restaurant prices almost resemble those in the real world. It also offers a perfect view of all the madness going on below, as visitors turn Monaco's biggest import - dollars - into betting chips before handing them over in the Casino.

However, just as we recommend arriving by helicopter, may we suggest you leave the Principality by bus to gently re-acclimatise yourself to the outside world....