Ahead of the 2020 Belgian Grand Prix, we look at 5 moments that define the modern day Circuit de Spa- Francorchamps.
1. Michael Schumacher’s Debut track (1991):
7 time Formula-1 world champion Michael Schumacher burst onto the racing scene in 1991. The driver racing for Jordan GP ran his first F1 race at Spa as a replacement for Bertrand Gachot who has recently been imprisoned. He had good practice runs qualifying an excellent 7th. Although Schumacher would have to retire his car within the first lap of the race that weekend, he was already catching eyeballs with the Benetton F1 team. Just one year later, Schumacher would display his true talent winning his first ever Grand Prix at Spa. Over the course of his career, Spa remained one of Schumacher's favourite circuits. He won 6 GPs at the circuit, the most of any driver in Formula 1 history. His final title winning race in 2004 would also play out at this very track.
2. A brawl taken off-track- Senna Vs Mansell (1987):
F1 has always been notorious for its adrenaline filled races and off-track drama. One of these moments played out at the 1987 Belgian Grand Prix between legendary drivers Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell. After losing the lead to Senna at the start, Mansell was fighting to overtake the Lotus. Finding the opportunity, Mansell made a move on Senna from the outside of a chicane with both drivers in a battle to stay on the tarmac. Inevitably the two cars collided and had to be retired. A furious Mansell stormed down to the Lotus pit, Grabbed Senna by the overalls pinning him against the wall in fury. Mansell in an interview recalled telling Senna at that moment, “Next time you do that, you’re going to have to do a much better job.” A defensive Senna later said, “When a man holds you round the throat, I do not think that he has come to apologize.”
3. The current King of Spa-Francorchamps- Kimi Raikkonen (2004):
Recently becoming the Formula 1 driver to have driven the longest total distance, Kimi Raikkonen holds the highest number of wins at Spa in the current driver line-up. The Finnish driver’s first victory at the circuit was his career’s second Grand Prix win in 2004. Having qualified in 10th place, chances were bleak for the then McLaren driver. Within the first lap, Kimi gained 5 places. By lap 10, Kimi was in the race for 2nd when Alonso’s Renault spun off putting Raikkonen in the lead. He would go on in the race to beat the previous year’s Belgian GP winner Michael Schumacher and set the fastest lap in the race. Kimi Raikkonen won the Belgian GP 3 more times in the years to come and remains the current King of Spa-Francorchamps.
4. A catastrophic pile-up on lap 1 (2012):
The first turn at Spa (La Source) has tested the skill of many-a-drivers being the sharpest turn of the circuit. A great example of its treacherous nature played out at the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix. The race started with Pastor Maldonado jumping the red lights. In the traffic at turn 1, Romain Grosjean made a cut in front of Lewis Hamilton forcing him onto the grass and into the rear of Sergio Perez and over the top of Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari. Hamilton and Alonso were the top contenders for the championship that year. The crash took out all four cars making the race a 16 car competition in the first 20 seconds. Grosjean got a 1 race ban, not being allowed to race the next weekend at Monza.
5. The fastest lap at Spa- Valterri Bottas (2018):
It’s difficult to be a driver for one of the top teams like Mercedes, more so when you’re paired with the reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton. But Mercedes driver, Valterri Bottas has his way of making his dominance felt. During the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix, Bottas having problems with the car qualified 10th on Saturday. However, during the race next day, the Finnish driver put on his A-game gaining 6 places to finish 4th. Although Sebastian Vettel won the race, Bottas broke the record for the fastest race lap at Spa under the new regulations since 2007 clocking a whopping time of 1:46.286 a whole second faster than the 2017 record set by Vettel.