The frenzied sprint for the F1 World Championship finishing line starts what promises to be a hectic seven race schedule this coming Sunday, with the inaugural European Grand Prix staged on the new waterfront circuit in Valencia.

Not only is this one of two brand new races on the 2008 schedule – the other one being next month’s Singapore fixture – but it is a reflection of how Spain has consolidated its position as a commercial and sporting force within Europe over the past few years. Not bad for a country which had something of an on-off love affair with this high octane business right up to the emergence of Fernando Alonso just five years ago.

The country first hosted a Grand Prix on the now long-defunct Pedralbes street circuit in Barcelona in 1951 and ‘54, after which there was a 13-year break before the country’s next F1 fixture with a non-championship race at the newly completed Jarama track just north of Madrid.

Jarama hosted its first championship Spanish GP in 1968, after which the fixture alternated between there and Barcelona’s spectacular Montjuich Park track until the latter was abandoned following a tragic accident in the ’75 race when Rolf Stommelen’s Hill-Cosworth suffered a rear wing failure, vaulted the trackside barrier and killed four onlookers.