Despite its popularity and costly safety changes, Spa-Francorchamps’ place on the Formula 1 calendar looks uncertain ahead of this weekend’s race.
Formula 1 returns from its holidays this weekend and heads to Spa-Francorchamps, in what might be the last Belgian Grand Prix for some time. If that is the case, there is no better opportunity for one of its own to help it bow out in style.
Max Verstappen, who is of course half-Belgian, went into the summer break with his grip on the World Championship tightened after one of his greatest drives, coming from 10th on the grid to win in Hungary. Meanwhile, Ferrari were left licking their wounds after yet another strategic debacle.
The Prancing Horse’s hind legs are precariously close to the cliff edge after more baffling calls from the pit wall, which left Charles Leclerc finishing a disappointing 6th in Budapest. This, combined with the Monegasque’s own mistakes – most notably in Le Castellet – has left Verstappen primed to retain the Drivers’ title. With nine races remaining, all eyes will be on the Scuderia this weekend, as they look to reduce their deficit to Red Bull.
Set in the Ardennes forest, the 7.004 km Spa-Francorchamps circuit is one of the most popular on the F1 calendar with fans and drivers alike. The circuit was originally opened in 1921 and has seen various changes over the years. Its post-war layout, which features heavily in the 1966 Hollywood movie Grand Prix, was approximately double the length of the current layout, the basis of which was first used in 1983. Its location often brings the risk of rain, and coupled with the eclectic blend of corners and fast sections, Spa is perhaps the greatest challenge of a racing driver’s skill and bravery.
Since the rain-sodden non-event that was last year’s race, Spa has seen a $76.5 million redevelopment. The bulk of this was spent on additional runoff areas on the notorious Eau Rogue/Radillion complex, after a number of big accidents in recent years, most notably in the 2019 F2 race, which claimed the life of promising French driver Antoine Hubert.
— Decyfr GP (@DecyfrGP) August 24, 2022
Did You Know?
Spa-Francorchamps is a track that holds many milestones in the outstanding career of Michael Schumacher. The German legend made his F1 debut at Spa in 1991 for Jordan, standing in for the imprisoned Bertrand Gachot, and told the team he knew Spa well. In reality, Schumacher had never driven the circuit before and learned it by riding his bicycle on a track-exploration day before the first practice sessions. Schumacher would qualify a staggering 7th but would retire on the first lap. A year later, he took his first F1 win there for Benetton, the first of six wins at Spa, and a 2nd place there in 2004 secured his 7th and final Drivers’ title.
The contrasting fortunes for Verstappen and Leclerc in Hungary give the former a whopping 80-point lead in the standings.
- Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing – 258 points
- Charles Leclerc, Ferrari – 178 points
- Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing – 173 points
- George Russell, Mercedes – 158 points
- Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari – 156 points
- Sir Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes – 146 points
I believe that Verstappen will further cement his supremacy with victory, and Red Bull will enjoy team-mate Sergio Perez on the podium, split by Leclerc. Given the nature of Spa and its knack for conjuring up some shocks, do not be surprised to see a few unlikely eventualities.
- Max Verstappen
- Charles Leclerc
- Sergio Perez
How to Watch Formula 1: United States (all times EST)
- Practice 1 – Friday, August 26 – 7.55 AM – ESPNU
- Practice 2 – Friday, August 26 – 10.55 AM – ESPN2
- Practice 3 – Saturday, August 27 – 6.55 AM – ESPN2
- Qualifying – Saturday, August 27 – 9.55 AM – ESPN2
- Belgian Grand Prix – Sunday, August 28 – 8.55 AM – ESPN