Belgian GP – Preview (History)

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Belgium, Circuit De Spa-Francorchampsbe

Returning from its summer break, Formula One visits Belgium for the 12th Grand Prix of the 2017 Championship. The miraculous Spa race track will play host to the opening event of the second half of this year’s campaign.

Location

Despite its name, the circuit is not in Spa, but it is located in vicinity of the towns of Francorchamps, Stavelot and Malmedy, only 20km away from the German boundaries.

History

The Spa race track is one of the most challenging and famous race tracks in the world. Next to the F1 Grand Prix, it hosts the Spa 24 Hours and the 1000 km Spa endurance races. It is also home to the all Volkswagen club event, 25 Hours of Spa and to other races of various GT, sports car and junior single-seater categories.

The Spa-Francorchamps race track was designed by the chevalier Jules de Thier in 1920 who wanted to revive the La Meuse Cup, a car race which was run before the World War One. The site for the circuit was marked in a triangle formed by the routes 32, 23 and 440 connecting Spa-Francorchamps to Malmedy and Stavelot.

The first race was cancelled because there was only one entrant. The next event which became the first ever race on the 15.820km long track was visited by 23 motorbikes.

In 1922, the Royal Automobile Club of Beligum organized the first ever race for cars on the track which was an endurance race.

The first ever GP was held in 1925 which was won by Alfa Romeo’s Alberto Ascari.

Three years later, tarmac was laid down to avoid stones being thrown up. 1939 saw a big change in the layout of the track. The old Customs bend was removed and replaced by the high-speed turn baptised Raidillon. It resulted in the creation of the corner complex of Eau Rouge and Raidillion which are connected by a steep uphill section of an incline of 17 per cent. It contributed to the international fame and reputation of the circuit.

In 1951, the track was enlarged and the Stavelot bend was created. In 1963, the first safety rails were installed to the high-speed circuit.

In 1979, a shorter layout was created in a length of 6.9km.

2007 saw the last major overhaul of the track. The famous, but problematic bus stop chicane was removed and the run-off area at many fast corners have been extended.

Most successful drivers and teams

The Belgian GP was held 71 times over its history, the first one in the year of 1925 which was won by Alberto Ascari in an Alfa Romeo. After the inception, ten other races were organized with some intermissions until 1950.

In 1950 which saw the birth of the Formula One Championship, Spa was part of the calendar, Juan Manuel Fangio triumphed for Alfa Romeo. Spa has been a loyal member of the F1 calendar, it only sat out the years of 1957, 1959, 1969, 1971, 2003 and 2006.

The most successful driver on the Spa track was Michael Schumacher with his 6 victories, the first one was his first ever carrier triumph. From the current drivers, Kimi Räikkönen won four times, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton two-two times.

In the era of Formula One, the most successful constructor is Ferrari with 16 wins. McLaren proved to be the fastest 14 times, while Lotus earned 8, Williams 4, Red Bull and Mercedes 3-3, Alfa Romeo and Benetton 2-2, and Maserati one victory.