This is the final instalment of Journeyer’s three-part guide to the history of the Belgian Grand Prix.
In recent times, the Belgian Grand Prix has become one of the favourite races of teams and fans alike. But that doesn’t seem to have saved this race from trouble. Twice it was dropped from the calendar, and has it fought back to get on. But the amount of action we saw here in the last two decades show why we love this race so much.
1992 – One of Spa’s unique characteristics is its micro-climate. It can rain on some parts of the track, and be dry on others. The rain, too, can come and go as it pleases.
The driver who took advantage of it that year was Michael Schumacher. It was just appropriate that one of the masters of changeable conditions took his first win under those very conditions.
1995 – Three years on from his debut win, and once again, we saw changeable conditions here. But Michael had to contend with a strong Damon Hill as well.
At one point, Michael was driving slicks on a wet track, while Damon was on wets. No problem: Michael held Damon off, blocking him at almost every opportunity. Damon was irritated by Michael’s tactics; but he was amazed at how he could pull them off.
1998 Once again, we saw changeable conditions here. In one of the most bizarre races of the decade, we’d see enough incidents here to last all season!
First, it saw the most chaotic start ever. The first start saw SIXTEEN out of the 22 cars collected in what may be the biggest F1 wreck ever. It made for shocking viewing. Astonishingly, no-one was seriously injured.
The second start got underway and Michael got ahead of Mika Hakkinen, who spun. But while way out in front, Schumacher shunted into Coulthard and went out of the race. Cue an angry Schumacher charging towards the McLaren garage and DC.
That left Jordan running first and second. Ralf Schumacher wanted to challenge Damon Hill but Eddie Jordan made sure he didn’t, and Hill cruised to take Jordan’s first Grand Prix win (as well as what would turn out to be Fill’s final F1 victory). Ralf wasn’t too pleased, and moved to Williams for 1999.
2000 – Schumacher vs. Hakkinen again. If you haven’t seen this race before, you should. Why? Because of That Pass that Hakkinen made on Schumacher to win.
2001 – While not on the scale of 1998, 2001 made for a pretty bizarre race. First, BOTH Williamses (who were on the front row) had problems (Juan Pablo Montoya on the first start and Ralf on the second). Both were sent to the back. That meant Schumacher’s third place became pole by default.
Next, Luciano Burti’s crash at Blanchimont was downright scary. The race was stopped so they could pull him out of his car. He turned out OK, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. It ended a bad day for Prost, after Heinz-Harald Frentzen stalled on the first start and thrown away fourth on the grid.
Third, Giancarlo Fisichella made the most of the two starts, climbing from eighth on the grid to be running second! While David Coulthard passed him towards the end, he was unchallenged for third.
And of course, there was Michael. He easily collected his 52nd win here to pass Alain Prost and become the most successful driver of all time in terms of race wins. Little did we know he would race for another five seasons and take 39 more wins.
2002 – Arguably, this was Schumacher’s most dominant win ever. He crushed everyone behind him (including team mate Rubens Barrichello) and was leading by nearly a minute at one point in bone-dry conditions before cruising home. He was just unstoppable.
2004 – The Belgian Grand Prix made a return to the calendar, after being dropped in 2003 due to tobacco advertising issues. We were treated to a fantastic fight between current master Michael Schumacher and future master Kimi Raikkonen. Kimi hung tough and held off Michael to win the race, but Michael had done enough to clinch his seventh (and last) world championship.
On a side note, reliability was terrible that year. Thanks to a series to collisions and mechanical problems, only nine of the 20 starters would finish.
2007 – Once again, the Belgian Grand Prix was making a comeback after being dropped in 2006 while substantial changes were made to the pits, paddock and parts of the track. But the news that weekend was of McLaren being disqualified in the constructors’ championship following spygate.
That meant the gloves were well and truly off between Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, who were racing at the start and came close to taking each other out. But neither could do anything about Kimi Raikkonen, who led home a Ferrari one-two for his third straight win at the track. That should’ve made Kimi smile like he meant it.
So will this race be a good one? We’ve seen more good races than bad ones this year, and Spa has always given us good races. Bring it on!
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