A lap of Spa with Lewis Hamilton The first ever Belgian Grand Prix was held on the 18th of June 1950 and was the fifth ever race in Formula One history. The 492.8 kilometer race was won by Juan Manuel Fangio in an Alfa Rome with the Argentinean repeating this success twice in 1954 with Maserati and 1955 with Mercedes.
In 1968, McLaren founder Bruce took the first Formula 1 World Championship victory for the marque, which had been established two years previously. Mika Hakkinen won the 2000 race in the McLaren-Mercedes MP4-15 after overtaking Michael Schumacher and lapping Ricardo Zonta in a single maneuver. One year earlier, Mika's team mate David Coulthard had won the race.
The first race in Spa was planned in 1921; only a single starter registered and so the first car race in the Ardennes did not take place until 1922. The race was last held here in 2005 where Kimi Raikkonen took the checkered flag in the McLaren-Mercedes MP4-20. He also won the race in 2004.
Here the team’s rookie racer, Lewis Hamilton takes us on a lap around the Spa Francorchamps circuit…
“You start out at the pit straight which leads down into the hairpin at Turn One. This is a nice, tight corner, a bit like in Bahrain, but it is quite easy to crash here at the start of the race because it’s a low grip corner and you just have to make sure that you steer clear of everyone and hope no one rams you from behind!”
“Then you carry the speed down the hill as you go flat through Eau Rouge. That is the most exciting corner ever, because if you can imagine the feeling going over a small bridge in a road car where your insides just become weightless, well that is how that corner feels. This is followed by the long straight up into Turn Five which is very good for overtaking.”
“Actually Turns Five and Six going into Turn Seven are a nice couple of corners; they are quite tight and again there is low grip so its just about carrying in the speed. Turn Eight is an extremely long downhill corner, where you are sort of clipping the two apex’s. It is fairly straightforward but because as it goes downhill it is off camber and you have to be careful not to run too much speed because otherwise you’ll slide off.”
“Pouhon, Turn 10, is another exciting part of the circuit. As you come into there it is hard to see how much exit you have and how much road is left. This makes it difficult to judge the speed to carry through there, I would say that we would be doing 290, 280 km/h through there, and also there is a lot of G Force. If you run too wide and clip the curb then you’ll have to lift, otherwise you’ll be off, which makes it quite tricky.”
“On the other hand if you can get it right and stay on the power and carry the speed all the way through the exit of the corner you can gain loads of time and it sets you up for the next corner. Moving through Turns 14 onto Turn 15, it is important to get the exit of Turn 14 right as Turn 15 is flat and you need to carry the speed from this corner all the way down the straight. This straight may look easy but it is not. It is very bumpy and the car is bottoming out.”
“Turn 17 is quite tight; it is pretty cool corner as you just have to try and be as smooth as possible. It’s very important to keep the car straight for braking for Turn 18 and getting the car into the apex, this is the worst part of the track for low grip. The surface here is new so it will get better as the weekend progresses and more rubber is laid down. It is a fairly straightforward part of the track though and you just need to make sure that you get a nice exit from Turn 19 and right down to the pit straight.”