Like many European countries, Spain has a long history of motorsport and races in the country are recorded as far back as 1908, when the events were held on the roads around Sitges near Barcelona. The first permanent circuit was built at Sitges, a 1.2 mile oval known as Stiges Terramor, which hosted the 1923 Spanish Grand Prix.

Spain made its first appearance on the world championship calendar in 1951, hosting a race at the Pedrables Circuit. However, legislation regarding spectator safety following the deadly crash at Le Mans in 1955 resulted in the spectator-lined circuit being dropped from the calendar.

In the 1960's Spain made a bid to return to the F1 calendar and the Royal Automobile Club of Spain commissioned a new circuit at Jarama. The track hosted a non-championship race in 1967 which was won by Jim Clark in a Lotus. In 1968 the Spanish Grand Prix returned to the calendar and following the event it was announced that the race would alternate between Jarama and Montjuic.

The 1975 race at Montjuic was marred by tragedy. Safety had been a big concern in the run-up to the race and Emerson Fittipaldi pulled out of the race after the first lap. On the 26th lap the rear wing of Rolf Stommelen's car broke off and the car crashed, killing four spectators. The race was stopped and Jochen Mass awarded the win - albeit with half points - Lella Lombardi finished sixth to become the only woman to date to win world championship points.

The race reverted to Jarama and the venue hosted the event until 1981, after which it was dropped from the calendar.

In 1985 the mayor of Jerez commissioned a new circuit in a drive to encourage more tourism to the area. The venue was finished in time to host a race in 1986 and crowds enjoyed one of the closest finishes in F1 history. Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell were fighting tooth and nail for the win, crossing the line side by side and it was only the stewards that could call the winner. They gave the win to Senna who crossed the line just 0.014 seconds ahead.

1990 was the last Spanish Grand Prix to take place at Jerez. Martin Donnelly's car was destroyed in a high speed collision during practice; Donnelly was seriously injured and was lucky to survive. In 1991 the event switched to the new Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, where the event has been held ever since.