Start, Interlagos, 2019

Countries out, cities in: Why traditional F1 race names are being replaced

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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?

Start, Imola, 2020
Imola’s 2020 race was called the ‘Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix’
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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1950 British Grand Prix programme
F1’s first championship race had two titles
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?

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2019
Like Brazil, Mexico has also renamed its race
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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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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31 comments on “Countries out, cities in: Why traditional F1 race names are being replaced”

  1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
    2nd February 2021, 8:13

    I can’t help feeling an F1 race without the country name loses a bit of its prestige. Not that I’m precious, what happens on track is what matters to me.

    (thinking) Hmmm… The Northampton Grand Prix…

    1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
      2nd February 2021, 10:52

      It definitely loses a bit of World Championship pizazz

    2. You’d never get away with it, as most of the Silverstone circuit is in Buckinghamshire…

      1. Hm, the Buckinghamshire-Northampton Grand Prix does feel like a bit of a mouthfull yeah @red-andy, @sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk!

        1. Buckinghamshire-Northampton Grand Prix does feel like a bit of a mouthfull yeah

          Maybe it will roll better off the tongue if called “Made in the UK and Buckinghamshire-Northampton Grand Prix”?
          And at least it can be another free geography lesson for everybody.

          1. Still sounds cooler than “The South Midlands Grand Prix”…

  2. If the naming is driven by the local authorities delivering the funding then this is ok with me, whoever pays the piper calls the tune and all that.

    Notwithstanding the point I make above, we can’t get to a situation where the promoter fees are paid wholly by a third party sponsor and then having the GP named after them instead. Eg the INEOS GP etc (I am not picking on them, just most obvious example at the moment given their extensive sporting investment atm).

    1. we can’t get to a situation where the promoter fees are paid wholly by a third party sponsor and then having the GP named after them instead

      I hope this never happens, but I expect it will. Just look at all the football stadia which have been given ridiculous new names several times based on who the sponsor is this week…

  3. So what next? Cities out then mockery names in?

    1. Probably company names… The Red Bull GP might be the first

  4. Dropping national titles for races would perhaps make it easier to ‘globalise’ the series and reduce the impediment to two races in one country as a norm rather than as an emergency measure.

    I would also like to get rid of national anthems and flag waving on the podium for the same reason so the focus is on the team and driver not the nationality of the driver or team. Ferrari will still have massive support at Italian races and Hamilton will at Silverstone. But that should be for what they are and what they do not for where they come from (although the home boy or girl or team is always going to be favoured).

    And I say this as a dyed in the wool patriot and lover of our racing heritage.

    1. I don’t know why do you want things to look more globalized and politically correct, but I don’t have problem with someone being of different nationality and not hiding it. It’s a tradition that can’t insult anyone, as there are no banned flags or anthems. Some people still feel some patriotism and national pride (I’m not much into these things myself, to be clear, but I respect it) and us being different is what makes us interesting. I’d rather see a British flag behind Hamilton, or Dutch flag behind Verstappen than Ineos and Red Bull banners or something. Such a wonderful idea, let’s make F1 look exactly the same as everything else, let’s cancel national flag, let’s all go for a rainbow or corporate logos… I think there’s plenty of space for it all, without removing something that shouldn’t offend anyone (and if it does the problem is in that individual).

  5. I’d prefer country names linked to a GP, maybe with the exception of Singapore.

    1. Singapore is a country. It’s one of the few city states left in the world.

      1. Then let’s hand that exception to Monaco, @napierrailton.

        1. @coldfly Monaco is also a city-state (Monte Carlo is its largest quarter).

          1. Then maybe I should have added :/ to both posts.

  6. Coventry Climax
    2nd February 2021, 12:46

    Americans in, ergo: Sales crap in.
    End result being, it’s all cheap, no matter how much money is spent.

  7. Abu Dhabi has always been called that since it joined the calendar in 2009.

    They use the United Arab Emirates flag in logos and graphics but never the country name.

    I don’t really care about the name if it is city/region/country – but I’m not really a fan of the new Imola race name.

    1. I think the same as you about the name.
      About Abu Dhabi and the UAE name ,I think it’s another show of power to its ‘sister’ Dubai.
      Kind of: “The GP is only mine, not ours. You lose your chance.”
      I had this article saved from a quiet already, and show a little bit about the fight between these two cities and the F1 GP.

  8. Steven Jackson
    2nd February 2021, 13:43

    The series is always under review, whether it be relevance, budget, politics, sometimes racing even gets a look-in.

    What’s in a name? History, heritage, longevity.

    What’s changing things? Money, money, money.

  9. The “funny” thing is that the Mexican GP only changed its name to Gran Premio de la Ciudad de México once the Mexico City´s government stopped funding the race. They basically blackmailed the promoters: “You better find private funding for the race or we cancel it, but if you get it you change its name to our convenience or you won’t ge the permits”. The first part was right, private parties were getting most of the benefits, the second part is not.

    1. I think the Mexican central government was trying to highlight that having the race continue was not their idea, but the city government’s idea.

      1. That’s a posibility, but they belong to the same political party, that would be a little strange. Anyway, it could be that you are right.

  10. petebaldwin (@)
    2nd February 2021, 14:32

    I really don’t have an issue with it – I usually refer to the track name or just the country anyway rather than the name of the event. I’d say Imola, Silverstone, Spain, Abu Dhabi, Circuit of the Americas, Turkey, Interlagos, Zandvoort…. I wouldn’t say “The Made In Italy etc GP”.

    It’s the same with the teams – it’s Mercedes, not Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team.

    1. Exactly

      I don’t even think of it’s “name” it’s the same with football stadiums etc – even if their name is changed to a sponsors name, I’d still call it by its original name.

  11. No problem with regional names, after all motorsport history is full of Eifelrennens, Mediterranean GPs, Coppa Arcebos, and so forth. I only hope that whatever names they select, won’t change every year, or two.

  12. The F1 history books have often had a way of deciding by what name a GP should be known for posterity, without necessarily following the official name.

    The most obvious example is the French GP. Most of the history books will tell you the first race so named was in 1906, but believe it or not the first French GP was not until 1968 officially. Before that the race was called the Grand Prix de ACF (the Automobile Club de France). Jack Brabham won the 53rd GP de ACF at the Le Mans Bugatti circuit in 1967, but when the F1 circus came to Rouen in 1968, it was not for the 54th GP de ACF but for the 1st GP de France. But try and find a list of French GP winners telling you Jacky Ickx was the first and you will struggle, because you will invariably find him as the 54th name on a very long list, immediately after Brabham’s as the 53rd.

    In the same way, I suspect the history books of the future will list this year’s Imola race as the 2nd Emilia-Romagna GP, immediately after last year’s. There is in fact a good example of the phenomenon in this very article, with Dieter citing the “Tuscan GP”, as indeed almost all of us already refer to last year’s Mugello race, even though it was officially the “Ferrari 1000 and Tuscan GP”. I doubt many history books will use that mouthful in the years to come and I doubt even more thatthey will refer to the “Made In Italy and Emilia-Romagna GP”.

    As to whether the history books will list the Mexican GP and the Mexico City GP separately, or list them all as the Mexican GP, time will tell.

  13. I really dislike this trend – national GP titles should be sacred

  14. No US Grand Prix yet. What matters is the venue, not the name.

  15. As I mentioned before, in my opinion, renaming São Paulo GP was another aspect of the rivalry between president Jair Bolsonaro and São Paulo state governor João Doria. Bolsonaro wanted the race moved to Rio, which would involve building a new circuit, loss of green space and probably lots of money on bribes and corruption. Thankfully that project was cancelled.

    Now that Doria together with São Paulo city mayor Bruno Covas secured a 5 year contract, it’s understandable that they want to promote themselves with a change of name and distant the F1 event from president Bolsonaro.

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