Confirmation on Friday that Imola’s 2021 Formula 1 round is to be named the ‘Made in Italy and Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix’ raised a few eyebrows. Not least because it puts the event on a collision course with Monza, the oldest purpose-built circuit in regular use in Europe (and thus Italy).
Indeed, Monza has staged more world championship grands prix than any other venue on the trail, having hosted Italy’s round every year since 1950 save for 1980, when the race went to Imola on account of a major refurbishment project. Thus, when Imola thereafter sought a regular slot on the calendar its race was known as the ‘San Marino’ Grand Prix, run under the colours of the principality situated 90 kilometres south-east of Imola.
There has long been strife between the two circuits. In 2016 Imola instigated (and later aborted) legal action against Monza over its government funding – ironically Imola’s 2021 ‘Made in Italy’ funding comes from the Department of Foreign Affairs – and in 2019 entered a bidding war during Monza’s renewal discussions by announcing its candidacy for an F1 round. Still, to most F1 fans Monza is Italy, and Italy is Monza.
Imola returned to F1 on last year’s ‘Covid Calendar’, underwritten by the Emilia-Romagna administration, but was not initially included this year until the Chinese promoters pulled their round due to the pandemic. Setting aside the ‘Made in Italy and Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix’ mouthful, is F1 following a trend towards naming races after cities or regions rather than nations, much as Formula E does with its street-based schedule?
While world championship events have been staged outside their title countries previously – for example, Imola and San Marino, Switzerland’s grand prix hosted by Dijon in France and Luxembourg’s round by Germany’s Nürburgring – and non-championship F1 rounds named after the local region (think Cape Grand Prix), world championship qualifiers were traditionally named after the host country.
Last year saw a raft of events adopt non-national names although highly unusual circumstances were involved as several countries held multiple events. Austria named its second race after the local Styrian region; Italy hosted three rounds, hence ‘Tuscan’ and ‘Emilia-Romagna’ for races at Mugello and Imola respectively; Bahrain’s Sakhir desert region – where its circuit is located – lent its name to the kingdom’s second 2020 race.
Britain’s second 2020 race celebrated F1’s birthday with its “70th Anniversary Grand Prix” title, Silverstone having hosted the first world championship round in 1950. Intriguingly, that original race was known as the “Grand Prix d’Europe incorporating The British Grand Prix”, but thereafter grands prix were usually named after host nations save where European countries hosted two races in a season, when that tag was applied.
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One exception occurred in 1957, when the Pescara Grand Prix was held as a second round in Italy. The Indianapolis 500 – a championship qualifier from 1950-60 – was, of course, named after the local city, but, like the race’s inclusion, it was an anomaly.
Last year the Nürburgring’s hastily-convened grand prix was named after the local Eifel region due to a long-standing naming row – Hockenheim’s organising club the ADAC claims to hold the rights to the national title.
In the USA the practises differed: “US West” was applied to Long Beach’s race from 1976 to 1983, although it could arguably refer to a contraction of “West Coast Region”. For a brief period during the eighties further US races were named after host cities, namely Dallas and Detroit.
Then, in a break from even such flexible protocols, the Caesars Palace hotel and casino complex named the 1981/82 grands prix staged in Las Vegas. Kyalami at one stage planned to stage grands prix under the “African” banner in the hope of attracting pan-continental funding, but the project came to naught. If Europe could name a race, why not Africa?
Covid calendar improvisations apart, there have been moves away from traditional race titles under Liberty Media. Mexico and Brazil’s rounds on the 2021 F1 calendar are now being named after their host cities – Mexico City and Sao Paulo respectively – in deference to substantial financial and logistics support.
As cities and regions increasingly appreciate the benefits of hosting grands prix and thus contribute to their funding, so this trend can be expected to accelerate. One of the reasons advanced by the Baden-Württemberg regional administration for no longer supporting the German Grand Prix at the Hockenheimring was that the country as a whole benefitted while the locals picked up the tab.
Naming grands prix after cities or regions has the potential to attract more local support, thereby returning more classic events to the calendar – as the case of the ‘Made in Italy and Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix’ proves, legal needle with Monza or not. It’s just a pity about the corny title…
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