Interesting facts and history of the Belgian Formula 1 Grand Prix, held annually at the legendary Circuit de Spa Francorchamps.
One of F1’s most historic tracks, Spa Francorchamps was first used to host Grand Prix racing events as far back as 1925. In the early years, it was a treacherous 14km track designed for speed, which used mainly local public roads. The circuit hosted a round of the inaugural Formula 1 World Championship in 1950, with Fangio taking the victory. Spa remained on the F1 calendar until the late 1960s, but fatalities were common and drivers began voicing their concerns at racing on such a dangerous circuit. The Belgian Grand Prix would move to other tracks at Zolder and Nivelles in the subsequent years before a return to Spa on a much shorter and safer 7km circuit in 1983. Apart from two years in which the race wasn’t held in the 2000s, Spa has remained a constant presence on the Formula 1 calendar ever since.
Map of the old and new Spa circuits, overlaid (courtesy Wikipedia)
Did you know?
The fearsome Eau Rouge corner, arguably the most famous on the current F1 calendar, features an elevation change of 35 meters from its lowest to highest point
At 7.004km long, Spa is the longest current F1 circuit. Despite this, it has one of the smaller spectator capacities on the current calendar (70,000 fans)
Spa is not only famous for Formula 1. It also holds other popular annual events, including the Spa 24 hours and the 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps for sportscars.
Michael Schumacher @ Spa
Schumacher made his Grand Prix debut for Jordan in 1991 at Spa, qualifying in an excellent seventh place. His race was over with a broken clutch on lap one, but he had made an instant impression and was poached by Benetton for the remainder of the season. One year later, he recorded the first of his 91 Grand Prix victories at Spa. The circuit remained one of his favorites; he recorded six victories at the track during his career, the most of any driver.
1998 Belgian Grand Prix
The 1998 Belgian Grand Prix was held under atrocious conditions. It will be remembered for a series of accidents, notably a first-lap shunt which involved no fewer than 13 drivers. Once the race finally got underway again, Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari was eliminated from a commanding lead when he crashed into David Coulthard’s McLaren as he tried to lap him. A furious Schumacher tried to remonstrate with Coulthard in the pits immediately after the incident. Emerging from the carnage, Damon Hill led home his teammate Ralf Schumacher for a Jordan one-two, the team’s first ever F1 victory.
Belgian Grand Prix Facts
Circuit Name (type)
Circuit de Spa Francorchamps (permanent)
Race first held
Number of Turns
44 laps (308.052km)
Lap Record (2007-present layout)
1:47:263, Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull, 2009)
1st Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:23:40.387
2nd Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) + 2.058s
3rd Romain Grosjean (Lotus) +37.988s
Lewis Hamilton onboard 2015 pole lap at Spa Francorchamps
Andrew Balfour is the Founder and Editor of F1Destinations.com. He originally hails from Adelaide, where he went to his first F1 race way back in 1987. He's been resident in Europe for almost 15 years and travels regularly to F1 races around the world.
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