As an astute Formula One fan, I am sure you are thinking that the title of this column in an oxymoron. How could there be historic moments for a Grand Prix that joined the race calendar for the first time this year? Well, that is true. The formal “Azerbaijan Grand Prix” is a brand new race this season. In reality, however, the Azerbaijan Grand Prix is the European Grand Prix re-branded. If you remember from last year, the European Grand Prix made its triumphant return to the race calendar running on the Baku City Circuit. Highlights of the six kilometer, counter-clockwise circuit include an extremely tight track through turns 8, 9 and 10 as well as close turns through the beautiful Old City.
So what’s with the name change? The location has not changed. The circuit has not changed. So why change the name from the European Grand Prix to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix? As it turns out, the European Grand Prix has an interesting history and has not always been a stand alone race. The origins of the European Grand Prix trace back all the way to 1923 when the “Grand Prix of Europe” was simply an honorific title. It was the 1923 Italian Grand Prix, held at Monza and won by Carlo Salamano in a Fiat, that first held the European GP title. This naming convention stuck around until 1977 when the F1 governing body decided to make the European Grand Prix a race in its own right albeit with a rotating location. The race was usually held in a European country that also hosted a national Grand Prix that same year. The last venue to host that form of the European Grand Prix was the Valencia Street Circuit in Spain in 2012.
So when the European Grand Prix returned to the race calendar last season we were all wondering what form that race would take. Would we see a rotating location or would Baku be the permanent home of a Grand Prix? Looks like we have our answer. Enjoy the “new” Azerbaijan Grand Prix this weekend.