Historically the European Grand Prix was an honorary title, created by the FIA's predecessor and first awarded to Monza, home to the Italian Grand Prix in 1923. The title was last given to Silverstone in 1977. It was revived in its current form as a stop-gap event in 1983 - the schedule for that year had featured a race near Flushing Meadows in New York but the event was cancelled three months before it was due to take place. Organisers at Brands Hatch stepped in to stage a race which was christened the European Grand Prix, as the British Grand Prix had already taken place at Silverstone in July.

The race proved hugely popular with the fans but as Brands Hatch was unable to host the event the following year - in that time Silverstone and Brands Hatch alternated hosting duties of the British GP - the race was held at the Nürburgring in Germany. Brands Hatch hosted the race in again in 1985, but then the race was replaced by the Hungarian Grand Prix.

In 1992 plans were made to replace the 1993 Mexican Grand Prix with a new race in Asia but in the end the race failed to materialise. Bernie Ecclestone stepped in and added a race at Donington - the circuit owner Tom Wheatcroft had been looking to attract F1 to Donington since a failed bid to host the British Grand prix in 1988. The race was won by Ayrton Senna in changeable wet and dry conditions - he lapped the entire field.

The raced moved to Jerez in 1994 and then back to the Nurburgring for 1995 and 1996. In 1997 Jerez once again hosted the European Grand Prix in replacement for the Portuguese Grand Prix. This race was the final of the season and saw Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve clash - the resulting accident saw Schumacher disqualified from the championship.

The race was absent from the calendar in 1998 but returned to Nürburgring in 1999 when in wet conditions Johnny Herbert was able to secure Stewart Grand Prix's only race victory. The race remained at the Nurburgring until 2007. In 2008 the race found a new home on the streets of the Spanish town of Valencia where it is set to remain until 2014.