When you’re perusing the Formula 1 calendar there’s one race that’s always a little different to the others. Mixed in amongst the names of great racing nations the name of a continent pops out: Europe.
The European Grand Prix has been a great fixture which and brought about some superlative races and dramatic moments, such as the famous crash at Jerez in 1997 which saw Michael Schumacher disqualified from the driver’s Championship for hitting Jacques Villeneuve. I wonder if he was still able to get cheap car insurance after that one?
Now it’s not like Europe has a shortage of Grand Prix races, you have: the Spanish, French (ok, ok, Monaco always pops out too), British, German, Hungarian, Belgian and Italian. So how come Europe has managed to wangle itself another Grand Prix?
Well, the title European Grand Prix was originally not an actual race, it was initially just a badge of honour which was awarded to different national Grand Prix each year, starting with the Italian Grand Prix in 1923.
The honorary title did have a bit of a patchy history, skipping a total of 21 years, until it was finally wrapped up at the British Grand Prix in 1977. Many people expected that to be the last we saw of the European Grand Prix.
However in the 1983 Grand Prix season a race pencilled in to take place near Flushing Meadows Park in New York had to be cancelled just three months before it was due to take place. At the time the British Grand Prix was alternating between Brans Hatch and Silverstone. On this particular year there was no race scheduled for Brands Hatch and safe in the knowledge that the British track was perfectly capable of stepping in to the breach, the FIA awarded Brands Hatch the race. However, as Silverstone was hosting the 1983 British Grand Prix, the race needed a new name… and the European Grand Prix was reborn.
The new standalone European Grand Prix moved to the Nürburgring in Germany the next year, before returning to Brand Hatch in ’85. In ’86 the Hungarian Grand Prix was introduced and the European Grand Prix again disappeared from the F1 calendar.
In 1993 a British track again came to the rescue of the F1 schedule when the planned Asian Grand Prix never came to fruition. And the European Grand Prix was reborn at Donnington. The track’s owners were delighted as they had been trying for some time to win the right to host the British Grand Prix.
The European Grand Prix has been a staple fixture in the F1 schedule ever since. Well, with the exception of 1998 when it was dropped from the schedule.
Donnington never played host to the event again, as it alternated between Spain’s Jerez track and the Nürburgring for the next four years, before settling in Nürburgring for 9 years. In 2008 the race found a new home on the streets of Valencia where it will stay until at least 2014. After that no-one really knows what will become of the European Grand prix. I for one would like to see the race continue: it’s got a great heritage and has ridden to the rescue of the F1 schedule more than once.
In my book the European Grand Prix has earned its place on the F1 calendar.
Do you think they should keep the European Grand Prix on the calendar or replace it with a race from another nation? Let us know in the comments box below.