May 5, 2014 (F1plus/Katie Grimmett).- European drivers hold 42 of a possible 64 world championships, proof of Formula 1’s strong history in the continent. Recently, the sport has branched out and the European tour is now bookended with excursions to Eastern Europe and North America.
Meanwhile, new Grand Prix races have been introduced: Abu Dhabi and Texas are relatively new fixtures on a busy F1 calendar.
Despite this expansion to new audiences worldwide, the sport’s heart still beats strongly in Europe. Indeed, when the European leg of the 2014 season gets underway next weekend, more than half of the current incumbent of drivers will represent a country on the F1 literate continent.
To win in Monaco, Great Britain and Belgium is a major achievement for any driver and these victories are often held in high esteem. You must have nerves of steel and be willing to drive on the limit to claim a victory around the streets of Monte Carlo. In the last week, qualifying for the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix has been a topic of great conservation as the world of motorsport acknowledges the loss of Ayrton Senna twenty years ago.
The lap itself was incredible – the fastest time set in Monaco history. To sit 1.427 seconds faster than his teammate, especially a perfectionist like Alain Prost, is the work of a legend.
The Brazilian’s desire to succeed and fulfil his maximum potential at the helm of an F1 model finally became a reality in the Principality. Only a select few drivers have navigated the tight corners, which ease amidst the increased pressures a street circuit brings. The MP4-4 took a record-breaking 15 victories from 16 races but there is no doubting that, for some fans, the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix qualifying session was their most memorable moment of the season.
In 2014, the European tour will end in Monza, Ferrari’s home circuit. Only a handful of Grands Prix offer the same deafening roar from the fans and the overwhelming expectation to succeed faced by the Italian outfit.
Ten years ago, against all the odds and in dry conditions, Rubens Barrichello enjoyed a brief moment in Michael Schumacher’s limelight as he stormed from ninth on lap six to seal an unpredictable 1-2 for Ferrari in Italy. A late, and very quick, pit stop enabled both drivers to make their way through the field and place the 2004 Monza Grand Prix in the record books.
Despite these historic moments, the removal of the European Grand Prix in Valencia has created fears about the status of European races in Formula 1 as the sport looks to expand its audience to other, often wealthier areas. With talks of a possible second American race in New Jersey and constant rumours surrounding a move to Mexico, is Europe too well represented on the racing calendar? Its illustrious presence in history may be enough to ensure Europe’s future in F1 remains strong but with Paul Ricard and Valencia now banished from the schedule, only time will tell.