The Belgian Grand Prix is an automobile race, part of the Formula One World Championship.The first national race of Belgium was held in 1925 at the Spa region's race course, an area of the country that had been associated with motor sport since the very early years of racing before the turn of the century. To accommodate Grand Prix motor racing, the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps race course was built in 1921 but it was only used for motorcycle racing until 1924. After the 1923 success of the new 24 hours of Le Mans in France, the Spa 24 Hours, a similar 24 hour endurance race, was run at the Spa track.
Drivers and fans alike love the Belgian Grand Prix. Since inception, Spa-Francorchamps has been famous for its unpredictable weather. At one stage in its history it had rained at the Belgian Grand Prix for twenty years in a row. Frequently drivers confront a part of the course that is clear and bright while another stretch is rainy and slippery. Most drivers today say that the Spa course is the most challenging race track that remained on the F1 calendar.
In 1925, the first Belgian Grand Prix was won by Antonio Ascari whose son Alberto would win the race in 1952 and 1953. Unfortunately, after winning the Belgian race, Antonio Ascari would be killed in his next outing at the French Grand Prix. In 1939, the race claimed the life of British driver Richard "Dick" Seaman while leading the race. During the 1960 race Chris Bristow and Alan Stacey lost their lives in separate incidents, the latter in a freak occurrence when hit in the face by a bird.
In 1972 Spa was considered too dangerous for Formula 1 machinery. Following that decision, the Belgians decided to alternate their Grand Prix between Zolder and a characterless circuit at Nivelles-Baulers near Brussels. The first race at Nivelles was won by Emerson Fittipaldi but although the track was safe, it inspired little enthusiasm when compared to the magnificent old Spa circuit. Zolder hosted the race the following year and it was won by Jackie Stewart. Formula One returned to Nivelles in 1974. Once again the race was won by Emerson Fittipaldi, but after that event the organizers were unable to sustain a Grand Prix at Nivelles and the track faded from the racing scene.
Afterwards, the race returned to Zolder. The Belgian Grand Prix would be held there a further nine times. Niki Lauda scored back-to-back victories at the track in 1975 and 1976, and in 1977 Gunnar Nilsson scored his only F1 victory at Zolder. The following year Mario Andretti won the race for Lotus. In 1979, Jody Scheckter won the race in his Ferrari. In 1980 Didier Pironi became a first time winner at the track in his Ligier. The 1981 meeting that was won by Carlos Reutemann was chaotic with a mechanic being killed in the pitlane, a drivers' strike and then a nasty startline accident. Zolder will always be remembered, however, as the place where Gilles Villeneuve died in 1982. John Watson won the race for McLaren, but a year later the rebuilt Spa circuit opened for racing and the Belgian Grand Prix returned there. The 1982 Belgian Grand Prix was held at Zolder. In 1983, the race returned to Spa before returning to Zolder in 1984. This was the last F1 race held at Zolder with Michele Alboreto taking the final victory there. In 1985 the Belgian F1 Grand Prix returned to Spa-Francorchamps where it has remained ever since.
World Champion Michael Schumacher, who made his debut at Spa in 1991 and won his first F1 race there in 1992, won his 52nd Grand Prix at Spa in 2001, surpassing Alain Prost's all-time record of 51 wins. Schumacher also won his seventh World Drivers' Championship title at Spa in 2004. There was no Belgian Grand Prix in 2003 because of the country's tobacco advertising laws but it returned to the schedule again in 2004.
Another notable race was the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix which took place in torrential conditions. The race was originally stopped after a massive accident involving thirteen of the twenty-two runners at the first corner. The heavy rain caused low visibility, and Michael Schumacher ran into the back of David Coulthard, an event that angered Schumacher so much he stormed into the McLaren garage to confront Coulthard, claiming he had tried to kill him. Coulthard later admitted he had been at fault, due to his own inexperience (despite it being his fourth year of Formula One)http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/07/06/1057430084085.html Only eight drivers were classified finishers (two of whom were five laps behind, one of whom was Coulthard) and Damon Hill secured a memorable victory ahead of team mate Ralf Schumacher to record the previously underperforming Jordan team's first Formula One win in its history, and a 1-2 to top it off.
In 2006, the FIA announced the Belgian Grand Prix would not be part of the 2006 Formula One season, since the local authorities had started major repair work in Spa Francorchamps. The Belgian Grand Prix returned in 2007, when Kimi Räikkönen took pole position and his 3rd Belgian Grand Prix win in a row.
In 2008, McLaren's Lewis Hamilton survived a frantic last two laps in a late shower of rain to win the Belgian Grand Prix. Hamilton lost the lead to Ferrari's Kimi Räikkönen with an early spin but fought back in the closing laps to re-take the lead with two laps to go. In a dramatic climax on a soaking track, Hamilton passed Räikkönen, lost the lead again with a spin, re-took it and then saw Räikkönen crash. Ferrari's Felipe Massa took second leaving him eight points behind Hamilton. However, the stewards decided after the race retrospectively to apply a drive-through penalty for Hamilton's pass on Räikkönen (i.e. a 25-second penalty). This left Hamilton in third place behind Ferrari's Felipe Massa and BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld. The penalty cut Hamilton's lead over Massa to just two points with five races remaining. McLaren appealed the decision but were turned down as it is not permissible to appeal drive-through penalties. The stewards' decision was widely criticised, with former world champion Niki Lauda calling it "completely wrong", "stupid" and "bad for the sport".
Only includes World Championship events
|Number of wins||Driver||Years|
|6||Michael Schumacher*||1992, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2002|
|5||Ayrton Senna||1985, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991|
|4||Jim Clark||1962, 1963, 1964, 1965|
|3||Juan Manuel Fangio||1950, 1954, 1955|
|Damon Hill*||1993, 1994, 1998|
|Kimi Räikkönen||2004, 2005, 2007|
|2||Alberto Ascari||1952, 1953|
|Emerson Fittipaldi||1972, 1974|
|Niki Lauda||1975, 1976|
|Alain Prost||1983, 1987|
A pink background indicates an event which was not part of the Formula One World Championship.
A cream background indicates an event which was part of the pre-war European Championship.
|1955||Juan Manuel Fangio||Mercedes-Benz||Spa-Francorchamps||Report|
|1954||Juan Manuel Fangio||Maserati||Spa-Francorchamps||Report|
|1951||Giuseppe Farina||Alfa Romeo||Spa-Francorchamps||Report|
|1950||Juan Manuel Fangio||Alfa Romeo||Spa-Francorchamps||Report|
|1947||Jean-Pierre Wimille||Alfa Romeo||Spa-Francorchamps||Report|
|1937||Rudolf Hasse||Auto Union||Spa-Francorchamps||Report|
|1931|| William Grover-Williams |
|1925||Antonio Ascari||Alfa Romeo||Spa-Francorchamps||Report|