In photos: Formula 1's iconic Spa moments
20 August 2017 – Formula 1 returns from its summer break next weekend with the Belgian Grand Prix, which takes place at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps. GPUpdate.net reflects on some iconic moments at the circuit.
Stewart's crash sparks safety quest
Formula 1 in the mid-1960s was a particularly dangerous sport and the 1966 Belgian Grand Prix highlighted stark issues which needed to be resolved. A downpour early in the race caught out drivers on slick tyres and Stewart slid off as he approached the high-speed Masta Kink. Stewart's BRM sustained heavy damage and he was trapped in the car for 25 minutes, before eventually being freed by Graham Hill and Bob Bondurant. Lacklustre medical facilities and organisation appalled Stewart and he began his drive to improve the sport's safety; Spa-Francorchamps dropped off the calendar in 1970 and only returned, in truncated form, in 1983.
Schumacher shines for Benetton
In 1991, a young talent was drafted in to compete for Jordan at Spa and impressed, qualifying seventh. He captured the attention of Benetton and Schumacher was soon racing for the squad, seen as Formula 1's next star. In 1992, a year on from his debut, Schumacher triumphed at a wet/dry race through a combination of his own ability, strong strategic calls and a small slice of fortune. It was the first of a record-breaking 91 victories.
Schumacher prevails over Hill
Following the death of Ayrton Senna, Schumacher claimed his maiden world title, via a testy battle with Damon Hill, who had stepped up as Williams' team leader. Schumacher and Hill's rivalry continued into 1995, albeit with the new champion upping his game. Hill led, but opted to pit as rain fell, while Schumacher stayed out. Hill surged up to his opponent, with Schumacher defending aggressively, and the pair embarked on an epic scrap. Schumacher eventually went wide, handing the lead to Hill, though the Briton needed to pit again soon after for slicks, as conditions improved. Schumacher thus led again, and held onto his advantage when the rain returned, as both stopped for wet tyres, with Hill's prospects ended by a penalty for speeding in the pit lane.
First lap carnage in the rain
Schumacher established himself as the master of the Ardennes with successive wins in 1995/96/97 but 1998 threw a spanner into the works. Heavy rain descended on the circuit, leading to one of the most dramatic opening-lap crashes in history, with half of the grid involved. Hill, racing for Jordan, led at the restart, but Schumacher soon streaked clear, establishing a massive lead. However, Schumacher dramatically crashed into David Coulthard – team-mate of title rival Mika Häkkinen – while attempting to lap the McLaren driver and dropped out, prompting the Ferrari driver to confront him in the pit lane. Only eight drivers reached the chequered flag, with Hill leading Ralf Schumacher for a Jordan 1-2, the team's maiden triumph in Formula 1.
The greatest pass in F1 history?
Schumacher had built a healthy title advantage mid-2000 but a sequence of retirements and a resurgent Mika Häkkinen left the Finn in the pound seats. Häkkinen dominated qualifying to take a commanding pole position and moved clear on a wet track, only to spin through Stavelot, ceding control to Schumacher. Häkkinen hunted down Schumacher and tried a move along the Kemmel Straight, only to be blocked by his rival, angering the McLaren racer. The next time around, the pair encountered the lapped Ricardo Zonta; Schumacher adopted the outside line, while Häkkinen boldly snuck through on the inside, and grabbed the lead in thrilling fashion. It remains one of Formula 1's most iconic moments, encapsulating the rivalry between two greats of the sport.
Burti's horrifying high-speed crash
Prost's Luciano Burti chased Jaguar rival Eddie Irvine during the 2001 race and the Brazilian had a run on his rival exiting Stavelot. Burti attempted to wrestle the inside line approaching Blanchimont but clipped the Jaguar and sustained damage to his front wing. Burti's car skipped across the gravel and slammed into the tyre wall at near full-speed, almost head-on. Irvine, who himself suffered a heavy impact, rushed over to aid Burti, who was stranded beneath the tyres. Burti was eventually extricated and hospitalised for a few days, though took a couple of years to fully recover from the head injuries he sustained in the ferocious impact.
Schumacher in seventh heaven
Schumacher dominated the 2004 campaign – winning 12 of the opening 13 Grands Prix – and arrived in Belgium on the brink of clinching a record seventh title. The race was one of attrition, with four drivers eliminated in a first-lap crash, leader Fernando Alonso retiring after spinning out on his own oil, before Jenson Button suffered a high-speed tyre failure, pitching him into Minardi's Zsolt Baumgartner. Kimi Räikkönen, from 10th on the grid, made minor contact with Felipe Massa early on, but avoided damage and eventually moved to the front. Schumacher followed Räikkönen home in second, enough to secure his seventh, and last, crown.
Hamilton's controversial chicanery
Räikkönen followed up with 2004 win with further victories in 2005 and 2007, though qualified only third for the 2008 encounter. On a damp but drying circuit, Räikkönen overhauled Massa, before profiting when Hamilton spun at La Source on lap two. Räikkönen moved clear, but rain fell during the closing stages, and Hamilton was back in contention. Hamilton adopted the outside line through Bus Stop, but cut the corner, after which the pair scrapped. Hamilton led, went wide at Fagnes, before Räikkönen spun seconds later. Räikkönen crashed out exiting Blanchimont, while Hamilton tip-toed his way around the last lap to triumph. However, his chicane-cutting earned him a 25-second penalty, demoting him to third, and handing victory to title rival Massa.
Fisichella's surprise pole position
Revised regulations in 2009 shook up the order, with Brawn and Red Bull emerging as title contenders, while McLaren and Ferrari struggled. Others, such as Toyota and Williams, occasionally shone, and were sometimes lacklustre. Force India, meanwhile, had remained perennial Q1 victims, yet to score a point. However, Fisichella and Force India thrived at Spa-Francorchamps, with the field spread extremely tight. Having been sixth on Friday, Fisichella topped Q1, eased through Q2, and edged Jarno Trulli to take pole. Fisichella maintained his pace in race trim, finishing just a second behind winner Räikkönen, claiming Force India's first podium finish.
Webber's ballsy move
Spa's Eau Rouge/Raidillon complex is one of the most fearsome segments of any Formula 1 circuit, and wisdom dictates that it is line astern through the corners. However, Mark Webber put paid to such notions in 2011 with a breath-taking pass on Alonso. The Ferrari ace had filtered out of the pits in front of Webber but the Australian used his superior speed to adopt the inside line for Eau Rouge, grabbing the narrow piece of tarmac on offer, and captured the place before the steep rise of Raidillon. Webber finished second to Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel, but won widespread plaudits for his outstanding manoeuvre on Alonso.
The first lap nutcase strikes
A chaotic start in 2012 led to a litter of carbon fibre amid the elimination of several contenders. Off the line, Romain Grosjean moved over on Lewis Hamilton, sending the Briton onto the grass. The McLaren driver hit the rear of Grosjean's Lotus, who in turn was pushed over the back of Kamui Kobayashi's Sauber. Grosjean's airborne car crossed over Alonso's Ferrari – just as the Spaniard turned into La Source – with Sergio Pérez and jump-starter Pastor Maldonado also involved. Only three drivers who started from the leading nine places on the grid escaped unafflicted, while Grosjean was slapped with a one-race ban for triggering the pile-up.
"Nico said he did it to prove a point"
The title fight between Mercedes drivers Hamilton and Nico Rosberg had been simmering, with the latter irritated after the events of the previous race in Hungary, when Hamilton did not move over for his rival. At Spa, Hamilton took the lead from Rosberg at the start but the German attempted to wrestle back control the next time around. The pair made minor contact through Les Combes, though it was sufficient for Hamilton's car to sustain a puncture. Hamilton declared post-race that "Nico said he did it to prove a point", and their relationship soured.