Formula 1 and F1Wolf will head to Valencia in 2 weeks for the inaugural Formula 1 race on Valencia Street Circuit. This may be the first European GP in Valencia but the history of European Grand Prix goes much further back. In fact it goes all the way back to 1923, long before Formula 1 championship was formed. There were however no standalone races between 1923 and 1997. One race a year received the honorary European GP title and that was it. Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Monaco, Netherelands, Austria, Switzerland and Great Britain all had the honours to run some of their Grands Prix as an European GP in those years. This mini series will however focus on the European GPs proper.
It all started almost by accident in 1983. When the New York Grand Prix was cancelled with only 3 months to go. Organizers from Brands Hatch were able to step in and host the race as European GP (British GP title was not available, that race was held at Silverstone that year). It was the penultimate race of the season with three drivers still in the hunt for championship – Prost, Piquet and Tambay. The race was won by Nelson Piquet (who then secured th title in South Africa) ahead of Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell.
The event was a success and European GP returned again in 1984. Brands Hatch track was not available (hosting British GP that year) and so the race moved to the new Nurburgring track. Drivers were not too excited about the new Nurburgring. Although much safer it was far less challenging that the original Nordschleife that had not hosted any F1 race since Lauda’s accident in 1976. Lauda was back at Nurburgring for the 1984 European GP and as a championship leader. Five cars were eliminated on lap one – Rosberg, Berger, Senna, Ghinzani and Surer. Prost led most of the race ahead of Tambay, Piquet, Warwick, Alboreto, Lauda and Arnoux. Tambay and Warwick later dropped back due to technical problems and Piquet ran out of fuel on the very last lap. Alain Prost won the race, Alboreto came second, Piquet third and Lauda kept his championship lead thanks to fourth place.
In 1985 the European GP retuned back to Brands Hatch. Ayrton Senna in Lotus started the race from pole position but the attention was on Alain Prost who had the chance to claim his first F1 championship title in this race. All he needed was to finish no worse than 5th. It did not look too good for him as he dropped from 4th to 14th shortly after start. Senna led the race ahead of Rosberg, Piquet and Mansell. On lap seven Rosberg failed in his attempt to take the lead from Senna and his spinning car was hit by Piquet. Piquet retired but Rosberg rejoined lap down and just ahead of Senna. This helped Mansell to close in later to take the lead from Senna (lap 9). At the back Prost was making up places and by lap nine he was 6th. He lost a place to Laffite for a while but few retirements elevated him up to 4th place. One of them was Surer who overtook Senna and looked set for 2nd, but was out by lap 63 when his engine let go. Nigel Mansell went on to win his first Grand Prix, Alain Prost clinched his first Formula 1 title.
In 1986 the European GP was replaced by Hungarian GP. It was to be 8 years before European Grand Prix would feature again on Formula 1 calendar.