Spa is the driver’s favourite race track and provides not only a fantastic circuit for them, but also an area of tricky conditions that can also make it treacherous. For the fans, it’s held some magical moments over the years, some of which the Badgerometer has rustled together!
From grid-proppers to table-toppers, Force India’s 2009 turnaround was borderline miraculous. At Spa that all came to a stunning conclusion with Giancarlo Fisichella’s shock pole position (see video below), a result that sent the Silverstone-based team into fits of pitwall delirium.
But the little Italian couldn’t complete the fairytale on race day as Kimi Raikkonen charged past the Force India following a safety car period. It was to be Kimi’s fourth win at Spa, a total that put him level with the great Jim Clark and with only Alain Prost and Michael Schumacher ahead of him. Alas, it was also the Finn’s final Formula One win before he started doing his best Jacques Villeneuve impression with short stints in everything on four wheels.
The 2009 race also saw a first lap shunt that eliminated both Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, Fisichella following Raikkonen home in P2 – to date Force India’s best F1 result – and Luca Badoer toddling home in last aboard the second Ferrari.
It was only 12 months ago but last time out in Spa had plenty of thrill and spills. Lewis Hamilton used the month long break well to recharge his batteries – and his title effort – to win, while the podium was completed by Mark Webber (himself looking for the championship) and an impressive Robert Kubica. Indeed, the Polish wonder driver was all set for second place until a mistake in the pitlane cost him time to the Aussie charger.
Early on in the race, Jenson Button was unceremoniously eliminated by champion-elect Sebastian Vettel, who t-boned the McLaren on the entry to the bus-stop chicane. With that kind of driving, Vettel was pretty much written off for the title, but what do experts know, right?
Michael Schumacher pretty much a fixture in the history of the Belgian Grand Prix, and involved in some of it’s most exciting moments. Perhaps his finest drive came in 1995, fresh off of his first title the year before and continuing his impressive form into 1995.
Battling with arch rival Damon Hill all season long (again), the traditional rain in Spa came down and many drivers dived into the pits for wets – crucially, Schumacher didn’t. With Hill closing rapidly on the slick-shod Benetton, it was almost an eventuality that the Brit would pass in the conditions considering the wets would have so much more grip. But, incredibly, Schumacher found more grip on slicks in the rain, and deftly held Hill off for several laps.
Even though Hill did get through – when Michael left the track no less – it turned out to be futile. Because the rain had stopped, Hill was on the wrong tyre and had to pit again, while Michael didn’t. It was a masterstroke, and the German went on to won pretty comfortably, a feat even more impressive as he started down in 16th!
The record books will show that the 2000 Belgian Grand Prix was won by Mika Hakkinen, but it will not document the stunning overtake that won him the victory over long time rival Michael Schumacher.
Chasing the German down, Mika had a sneaky look down the outside while coming out of Eau Rouge, but Michael was cunning and forced the Finn onto the grass at 170mph. One lap later, and with a slower BAR of Ricardo Zonda coming up, Hakkinen took his chance out went to the outside while Schumacher took the inside to pass Zonda. Mika was alongside, then in front – it was breathtaking.
Earlier this year, Badger GP was lucky enough to ask Mika Hakkinen about the whole experience – read it here, or just enjoy the video below!
If there was a race that could be synonymous with what Belgium can offer a Grand Prix, then look no further than the 1998 race. It pretty much had everything; first corner pile up for the ages, re-start, surprise leader, dominant title contender takes control only to run into backmarker, underdog team not only wins but nabs a 1-2 in the process. Oh, and sprinkle with some team orders and you’ve got a classic.
Damon Hill, after season in the doldrums with Arrows in 1997, won to give Eddie Jordan’s outfit their first ever race victory. Hill’s teammate, Ralf Schumacher, was ordered to hold off to give the team the win and finished a very disgruntled second. Championship favourite Michael Schumacher was eliminated when trying to lap David Coulthard in the middle of the race, and confronted the Scot in the pit lane.
Because the race is just so action packed, we’ve included two videos to justify it; the infamous startline crash and the DC/Michael “fight”. Grand Prix gold.