BELGIAN GRAND PRIX
CIRCUIT DE SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS - SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS
Belgian GP: all you need to know
Along with Monaco, Monza and Silverstone, this is another of the great classics on the Formula 1 calendar. There have been 68 Belgian Grands Prix since 1950, the first year of the World Championship: 2 were held at Nivelles, 10 at Zolder and 56 at one of the very best tracks in the world, Spa-Francorchamps.
To win at Spa is to become a legend of the sport. Back in 1950 the track was 14 kilometres long, while today it’s around half that distance, but it is still the longest one on the F1 World Championship calendar.
Given it’s geographical location in the centre of Europe, many people drive to the Belgian Grand Prix, which is very handy.
It means one can ignore the maximum luggage rules relating to air travel and so one can bring one’s entire wardrobe to Spa. From sun tan cream to a Sou’wester raincoat you could need it all. Truth is, everyone is actually disappointed if it does not rain over the race weekend, so intrinsic is a damp track to the character of this event.
The roller coaster of the GP of Belgium
Whatever the weather, the Belgian F1 Grand Prix is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the year because the road circuit, even though much shorter than it’s original format, is still the greatest challenge known to a man in a motor car, with only Suzuka running it close in the excitement stakes.
No other circuit provides such a variety of mainly high speed corners, camber changes and of course the rollercoaster ride that is the section from La Source hairpin after the start to the top of the Radillon after the now flat-out Eau Rouge kink. At just over 7 kilometres, it’s a long way to walk but doing so and then imagining completing a lap at an average speed of over 230 km/h, gives you a clearer understanding of what makes a Formula 1 driver tick.
Flat out through the forest
The idea of racing along the roads linking several villages in the Ardennes dates back to 1920, the brainchild of Jules de Thier and Henri Langlois van Ophem. Their vision resulted in a 15 kilometre track where the driver’s courage was as important as the power of his engine! Today, Spa-Francorchamps is about half the length of the original, but at 7 kilometres, it is still the longest on the F1 calendar.
Formula 1 has always been keen on the attractions of Spa-Francorchamps, which is why the Belgian Grand Prix is one of just seven events that featured in the very first year of the World Championship in 1950. On that occasion, it was an Alfa Romeo one-two, with Juan Manuel Fangio leading home team-mate Nino Farina.
There are plenty of famous corners in the F1 portfolio, but this left-right-left uphill section is regarded as the most iconic piece of race track in the world. As car technology improved, it could be taken flat out in a Formula 1 machine. But as from 2022, it has undergone a change, its entry being moved slightly to the left, restoring a bit more of the old challenge to Eau Rouge.