Spa-Francorchamps: Best Races

Written by Megan Hill, Edited by Simran Kanthi

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The summer break has ended, and a cracking Belgian Grand Prix has taken place that saw Max Verstappen win the race from P14. The race was held at the historic Spa-Francorchamps circuit. There have always been many memorable races at this circuit just like this year's, so let's dive into some of the greatest races produced in the Ardennes hills.


1991: Michael Schumacher’s Debut

The 1991 edition of the Belgian GP (Grand Prix) will forever be remembered as the birth of an F1 legend. Michael Schumacher made an immediate impact in the paddock by qualifying 7th for the fledgling Jordan team, before his clutch failed on the first lap of the Grand Prix which Ayrton Senna won. Because of his outstanding talent within the car, a contract dispute followed which was eventually won by Benetton who he drove for the remainder of the season.


1992: Michael Schumacher’s first win

One year after his debut, Michael Schumacher won his first race driving for Benetton. At the start, Gerhard Berger failed to get away from 6th before immediately retiring with transmission issues. Shortly after, rain began to fall and almost everybody dived into the pits for wets. Ayrton Senna gambled on staying out but ended up pitting instead, coming out in 12th. Senna then made a charge up the field, overtaking Mika Häkkinen's Lotus for fifth place on the penultimate lap. Eventual champion Nigel Mansell finished second behind Schumacher, while his teammate Riccardo Patrese finished third.

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1998: The world’s most expensive car crash followed by lapping a car gone wrong

The 1998 edition of the Belgian GP will forever go down in F1 folklore for multiple reasons. The first reason is the start: David Coulthard lost control of his McLaren, putting it into the barrier before it bounced back onto the track, collecting almost half the grid just before coming to a halt. At the second restart, just after exiting the La Source hairpin, pole-sitter Mika Häkkinen spun his McLaren before getting collected by Johnny Herbert's Sauber, forcing both out of the race. The second reason which makes this race so iconic is Michael Schumacher's attempt to lap David Coulthard (allowed to restart after the lap 1 incident since the regulations considered the start to be null if the race stopped within the first two laps). Coulthard had been told by his team that the leader was going to lap him, so he slowed his car a fraction, but stayed on the racing line. Schumacher, unable to see anything due to the spray, crashed right into the back of the McLaren, taking the McLaren's rear wing and losing his front-left tyre. Damon Hill eventually won the race after Jordan Grand Prix issued team orders (which Hill had suggested they do) to Ralf Schumacher, who had been catching his teammate at a rapid pace. Jean Alesi completed the podium for Sauber Motorsport.


2000: One of the greatest overtakes

The 2000 Belgian GP wouldn't have been as memorable without Häkkinen's double overtake on Michael Schumacher and Ricardo Zonta. The start wasn't too exciting, with Häkkinen retaining his lead from Jarno Trulli. By lap 13, Schumacher had cleared Trulli and had closed Häkkinen's gap to just over 4.6 seconds, when one of Häkkinen's tyres made contact with a damp kerb at Stavelot sending him into a half spin, costing him ten seconds. Schumacher took the lead following this error. On lap 40, Häkkinen made an attempt to take the lead, but Schumacher famously slammed the door shut forcing Häkkinen to lift off. On the following lap, the two drivers encountered Zonta's BAR (British American Racing) while racing down the Kemmel straight. Schumacher went left, Zonta stayed put and Häkkinen dived down the inside of both of them, spectacularly taking the lead from the German while both lapped the Brazilian. Ralf Schumacher completed the podium. Another moment from that weekend that stood out more than most was what happened in Parc Fermé when Häkkinen approached Schumacher, still upset about what happened on lap 40. He told Schumacher that he shouldn't pull such a manoeuvre at those speeds.

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2004: History was made

The 2004 Belgian GP will be remembered as the day Michael Schumacher won his 7th and last world championship. The race-start consisted of three separate collisions including Schumacher's teammate, Rubens Barrichello. Eventually, the race was won by Kimi Räikkönen in the McLaren.


2008: A win taken away by penalty

The 2008 Belgian GP will mostly be remembered as the race that Lewis Hamilton lost due to a penalty he acquired for an incident with Kimi Räikkönen. After the start, Jarno Trulli was hit from behind by Sébastien Bordais. At the front, Hamilton led from Räikkönen after the Finn passed his Brazilian teammate Felipe Massa on the Kemmel straight. On lap two, Hamilton spun at the hairpin handing Räikkönen the lead on the straight. Eight laps later, Heikki Kovalainen made an attempt to overtake Mark Webber at the Bus Stop chicane but instead hit the Australian on the side, causing him to spin. Later in the race, Hamilton made an attempt to overtake Räikkönen at Bus Stop but he had cut the chicane. He realised this and slowed down enough to give Räikkönen the position back, but re-overtook the Finn by under braking at the first corner. Kimi tried to get back at the Brit, but the line he was aiming for was defended, resulting in contact between them. Nico Rosberg spun at the Fagnes corner after more rainfall, rejoining the track just before the two frontrunners had reached him. This forced Hamilton onto the grass. At the next corner, it was Räikkönen who spun, handing the lead back to Hamilton. The Finn then lost control of his Ferrari, binning it in the Blanchimont corner and into the barrier that ended his race. Eventually, Hamilton crossed the line first, followed by Felipe Massa. Post-race, Hamilton was handed a 25-second penalty for the incident with Räikkönen, giving the win to Massa. Lewis was bumped down to third, as Nick Heidfeld was notched up to second place.


2010: Mixed conditions and a winner at Belgium at last

The 2010 Belgian GP saw Lewis Hamilton winning the Grand Prix for the first time after a race full of attrition. At the start, Mark Webber had a slow start and lost the lead to Hamilton. Robert Kubica followed and Hamilton's teammate Jenson Button was third. Webber then briefly put his car into anti-stall after the revs were too low. By doing this, he fell to sixth. The first retirement was Rubens Barichello after contact with Fernando Alonso. On lap 11, Vitaly Petrov overtook Nico Rosberg at Les Combes for ninth place. Having noticed this, Michael Schumacher passed Rosberg for tenth, although Schumacher's rear wheel and Rosberg's front wing endplate made contact. An accident between Sebastian Vettel and Button forced Button out and Vettel down to 12th. For the accident, Vettel received a drive-through penalty. At the end of the race, Webber crossed the line after Hamilton, followed by Kubica in third.

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2011: A bold move at a dangerous corner

The 2011 Belgian Grand Prix will be remembered for Mark Webber's daring overtake on the outside of the Eau Rouge/Raidillon sequence. At the start, there were two separate incidents in the first corner. After that, Nico Rosberg led the field (for the first time in his career) but was unable to defend Vettel when the German sailed past him with DRS (Drag Reduction System). On lap 5, the first round of pit stops happened, with Webber diving in first and followed by Vettel, which gave the lead back to Rosberg. On lap 13, Hamilton collided with Kobayashi, which ended the Brit's race. The safety car that followed meant Fernando Alonso gained the lead, but lost it when he made his own pit stop. After the Hamilton wreck had been cleared, racing resumed, Sebastian Vettel led from his teammate Mark Webber and rival Fernando Alonso. On lap 31, Jenson Button inherited the lead but had no answer to Vettel's out-lap and had to pit, eventually emerging behind Webber and Alonso. Alonso couldn't defend from Webber and later from Button. Vettel won the race, around three seconds ahead of his teammate, who in turn was six seconds ahead of Button who finished third after starting 13th.


2018: But here comes Sebastian Vettel

This edition of the Belgian GP will forever go down in F1 history because of the iconic commentary delivered by Sky Sports F1's David Croft. The start featured a horrific crash between Fernando Alonso, Charles Leclerc, and Nico Hülkenberg. Hülkenberg misjudged his breaking point, crashing into Alonso, who got sent upwards and over Leclerc's halo. Meanwhile, on the Kemmel straight, Sebastian Vettel overtook Lewis Hamilton, provoking the iconic line, "But here comes Sebastian Vettel!" Vettel then kept the lead to win, and Hamilton and Verstappen completed the podium.