Formula One

Most Memorable Belgian GPs In F1 History – Four of the best races at Spa

Formula 1 is back on one of its most famous destinations, the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. The Belgian GP is one of the most historic on the calendar and has produced some thrilling races!

Most Memorable Belgian GPs: 1995

Ferrari scored a one-two in rainy conditions with Gerhard Berger ahead of Jean Alesi, one second clear of Mika Hakkinen and Johnny Herbert. Damon Hill struggled was 3.3 seconds off down in eighth, but at least he was higher than his title rival, as Michael Schumacher would start all the way down in sixteenth.

Berger had a terrible start on the damp surface, so Alesi and Herbert battled for first and the Brit emerged ahead. The two were exchanging positions through the first four laps, at which point Alesi’s suspension broke. The man that picked up the lead on lap six was David Coulthard, who had a few great opening laps from sixth, before his race ended with gearbox problems seven laps later.

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Photo by PictureAlliance / Icon Sport

Damon Hill was in the lead ahead of Michael Schumacher, both of whom had made a great recovery. As the track dried, they pitted for slicks and soon afterwards rain returned. Hill pitted again, this time for wets, but Schumacher didn’t. The Williams closed the gap to the Benetton at a rate of around six seconds a lap. In a very aggressive fight, Hill eventually found his way through, before the rain stopped and Schumacher was back past.

Schumacher took a brilliant win, but his stern defence was a major talking point. Hill’s hopes for the win were erased after a late-race penalty for speeding in the pitlane. Martin Brundle had a great race, taking his last F1 podium from thirteenth on the grid.

Most Memorable Belgian GPs: 1998

McLaren locked out the front row of the grid, with Mika Hakkinen ahead of David Coulthard. Its performance was dominant, as third-placed Damon Hill was one second away from the best time. Michael Schumacher as he was fourth, 1.3 seconds off pole.

In treacherous conditions, Hakkinen got a good start, but chaos ensued behind. Coulthard crashed after the first corner and a thirteen-car pileup took place, so the race was red-flagged. Nine of the drivers were able to use their spare cars and restart. When action got back underway, Hill took the lead, while Hakkinen spun, was then hit by Johnny Herbert and retired. After a couple of laps behind the safety car, the race resumed and Schumacher overtook Hill to climb to first.

Schumacher extended his gap to hill to forty seconds by lap 25. Then, he came across Coulthard, who was struggling in his spare car and was about to get lapped. The Scot lifted on the racing line and Schumacher did not see him in the spray. The pair collided and Schumacher lost his right front wheel. The German ran to the McLaren garage to fight the Scot, but was held back by his own mechanics.

Michael Schumacher's broken Ferrari, in one of the most memorable Belgian GPs, that of 1998..
Photo by PictureAlliance / Icon Sport

The beneficiary was Damon Hill, who led from Ralf Schumacher and proposed team orders to prevent an attack from his teammate. They were applied and Hill was allowed to lead a Jordan one-two across the line for the team’s first win in Formula 1 and his last. The younger Schumacher was denied the chance to chase his maiden win and was second on the podium, ahead of Jean Alesi, who took his last podium.

Most Memorable Belgian GPs: 2000

Mika Hakkinen conquered qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps, as he took pole by three quarters of a second to the following cars. Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button were massive surprises, having completed second and third on the grid. Nine tenths behind Hakkinen were Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard, in fourth and fifth positions respectively.

There was rain on the air on Sunday and the safety car was used to start the race, to avoid a repeat of 1998. Hakkinen pulled away quickly, while Schumacher was on the move and up to second. He overtook Button and Trulli within a few corners, with those two drivers colliding moments later. Hakkinen had a comfortable lead, despite Schumacher closing the gap. On the thirteenth lap, Hakkinen spun and, despite resuming the race, the lead was now Schumacher’s.

Their gap grew to eleven seconds but started to come down and with four laps to go, nothing separated them. Hakkinen tried to overtake on the Kemmel Straight, but Schumacher blocked and the Finn had to lift. On the following lap, the situation was repeated but now Ricardo Zonta was being lapped. He was in the middle of the track, so Schumacher moved outside of Zonta and Hakkinen went the other way and passed both!

In a thrilling finale, Hakkinen got a famous victory in Belgium, just a second in front of Michael Schumacher, who was joined on the podium by his brother, Ralf. David Coulthard was fourth, while Jenson Button’s successful rookie season continued with his fifth top-six result.

Most Memorable Belgian GPs: 2008

Lewis Hamilton was on pole with a comfortable gap to Felipe Massa. Three tenths split the two, while their teammates, Heikki Kovalainen and Kimi Raikkonen, were right behind them.

The track was damp at the start, because of an earlier shower, but everyone started on slicks. Hamilton held the lead, while Raikkonen passed Massa on the Kemmel straight. At the start of the second lap, Hamilton spun at La Source, which meant Raikkonen took the lead. The Finn opened a gap, but towards the end the rain returned. The order was Raikkonen, Hamilton, Massa, Bourdais, Vettel, Heidfeld, Kubica and Alonso.

With three laps remaining, Hamilton caught Raikkonen and tried to pass at the Bus Stop chicane, but he cut the corner. The Ferrari stayed in the lead, but the McLaren retaliated and got the lead at La Source. Halfway through the lap, the pair came across Nico Rosberg. Hamilton avoided him and went into the grass, moments before Raikkonen spun and the Brit was back in front! The rain got heavier and a couple of corners later, the Finn crashed.

The move Hamilton made at the Bus Stop and ultimately cost him the win
Photo by XPB / Icon Sport

Hamilton crossed the line fifteen seconds ahead of Massa and another nine ahead of Heidfeld, whose gamble to pit for intermediates for the last two laps paid off. However, two hours after the race, Hamilton was controversially given a 25-second penalty for cutting the Bus Stop chicane and was demoted to third. Alonso also pitted for intermediates and he made four overtakes on the last lap to finish fourth, ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Robert Kubica. Sebastien Bourdais was heartbroken to lose four places on the final lap and finish seventh.

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