As F1 moves to the 8th round of the season at the newly constructed Baku city circuit in Azerbaijan, the new home for the European Grand Prix, its time we take a look back at the 5 finest races run under the aegis of this honorific title. Instituted much more as an excuse to allow certain countries to host multiple races than as a national event, the European Grand Prix has travelled several places throughout the continent. Brands Hatch, Jerez, Donington and Nurburgring all have hosted the European Grand Prix throughout the years. This race has provided us with quite a few memorable moments.
5. 1994 Jerez
The battle for the 1994 championship came alive at Jerez as Michael Schumacher returned to take on Damon Hill. Schumacher’s return from a two-race suspension to lead the Benetton team was just the first of many changes in the driver line-up since the previous round in Portugal three weeks earlier.
Nigel Mansell had climbed from the cockpit of his Newman-Haas Lola at Laguna Seca in California the previous weekend and left IndyCar racing for good. He took over from David Coulthard at Williams, and though he was still feeling the after-effects of the abrupt shift in time zones he was eager to begin what amounted to a three-race audition for a full-time return in 1995. The 14th round of the championship was supposed to take place in Argentina, but problems getting the venue ready meant it was scrubbed from the calendar four months before it was due to take place.
A replacement was arranged at Jerez, and the Spain’s second round of the championship was given the title of European Grand Prix which Donington Park had used the previous year. With their championship leader back at the helm, Benetton were rejuvenated. The twisty circuit suited the B194 chassis, and after minor damage to his car was repaired overnight Schumacher took his fifth pole position of the year. The cars were held on red for a long time. Moments before the lights changed, Schumacher’s clutch started to drag, and just as he made to come off it the race started and Hill beat him to turn one.
Schumacher, who was planning to pit three times, hounded his championship rival during the opening laps. No overtaking opportunity presented itself, but Schumacher could afford to relax in the knowledge that Williams strategy had consistently been found wanting compared to Benetton’s.
That may have proved the case on this occasion even without Hill’s problem. Schumacher made his first pit stop on lap 15 and jumped ahead of the Williams when Hill pitted two laps later. And despite Hill planning to pit twice his second stint was no longer than Schumacher’s – both were back in after 18 laps.
This was because a fault in Hill’s fuel rig led Williams to the incorrect conclusion that they had put too little fuel at his first stop. His second pit stop was therefore both too early and saw him take on to much fuel.
While Hill lugged around the best part of 100kg of fuel, Schumacher’s light Benetton disappeared up the road. Hill, who had begun the race looking like he would surpass Schumacher in the championship standings, had to settle for second. A faulty refueling rig had put paid to hopes of a showdown between in the two in Spain. Schumacher took his eighth win of the season – and regained the initiative in the title fight, which he would go on to win in spectacular fashion.