One of the world’s great circuits, Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps is always a hotly anticipated destination – following F1’s summer break.
Steeped in history, the track has hosted Grands Prix since 1925 – making its F1 debut in 1950 – the Ardennes region’s weather notorious for sorting the men from the boys. And the greats from the goods.
… with 2-time F1 World Champion Jim Clark taking four-straight wins for Colin Chapman’s Lotus team from 1962 to 1965.
Michael Schumacher, however, remains the king of Spa with six victories, one up on Ayrton Senna. Spa specialists Clark and Kimi Räikkönen have four, with all multiple winners there F1 World Champions.
Schumacher’s legacy in Belgium continues with son Mick winning his first European F3 race there earlier this month, while for Michael it’s his “living room” – where he began his career in 1991, becoming the only driver to win the world championship there in 2004, and where he started his 300th race.
SOUNDBITE (English) MICHAEL SCHUMACHER,
7-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“In my whole history, everything comes back to Spa where everything started – and where lots of great stories happened, the emotion of the track, [and] the combination of history is the reason that Spa became my living room.”
Located 40 minutes from the nearest city of Liège, the legendary 7-kilometre track features 19 turns, 10 left, and nine right – and a top speed of 320 kilometres an hour. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel reset the lap record last year. While there are two DRS activation zones: one on the Kemmel straight, the other on the pit straight. There are two DRS detection zones, one on the run to Eau Rouge, the second before the Bus Stop chicane.
But it hosts racing all year round, with Fernando Alonso winning there for Toyota earlier this year, at the World Endurance Championship’s season-opening six-hour race.
SOUNDBITE (English) FERNANDO ALONSO,
2-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“Feeling obviously very privileged to drive this car – and very proud to drive for this team. First race in [World] Endurance Championship and first win. Thanks to everyone in the team”
Last year saw a number of big milestones with the event the 50th Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, and Lewis Hamilton winning on his 200th race start.
This year, the Brit returns in control of the drivers’ standings but all eyes will be on the speed trap from Friday practice for whether Mercedes has made gains on Ferrari in terms of straightline speed…
Of course, Daniel Ricciardo will be a key talking point ahead of the race, having announced he will join Renault from 2019, and Spa where he took his third of three wins in 2014.
SOUNDBITE: (English) DANIEL RICCIARDO,
F1 DRIVER, RED BULL RACING:
"Yeah there was obviously the Mercedes dominance, but I was able to score the only other three [Grand Prix] wins of the season, so that was obviously a big year for me.”
The sport’s silly season will naturally ramp up, with the end of year F1 flyaways approaching – and lots of seats yet to be settled.
Including both drives at minnow squads Toro Rosso and Sauber – where no names have been confirmed yet, and announcements traditionally made towards the back end of the racing season.
… while Belgian-born Dutch driver Max Verstappen’s army of fans will be on the edge of their seats once again - in the hope their man can take his second win for the year.
Fast, flowing and always unpredictable – the Belgian Grand Prix is a true Formula 1 classic. It’s time for the magic of Spa!