The legendary venue in the Ardennes, Spa Francorchamps, is one of the most cherished race tracks on the planet, a battlefield of a thousand tales which in the past has delivered epic races.
This year the Formula 1 circus returns from the summer break to take on the challenges of one of the most daunting circuits on the race calendar. Spa is old school as it gets in this politically correct era of sterile pop-up billion-dollar Grand Prix arenas.
Spa punishes waywardness and tests bravery to the maximum, Eau Rouge, of course, remains the crown jewel of tarmac strips, while the hairpin has also provided its fair share of drama over the years. Of course, there’s tricky Le Combes, big-balls Pouhon, unforgiving Stavelot, flat out Blanchimont and that pesky final chicane to test drivers to the maximum.
The current 7.004km track layout has been in use since 1979 after safety concerns forced the closure of the original 14.863kph circuit. The track is still the longest on the 2021 Formula 1 calendar – more than one kilometre longer than any other venue – and it is one of the fastest, with an average speed in excess of 230kph.
Outside of F1, the circuit has a full calendar of events, including the 24 Hours (now run to the popular GT3 rules), the FIA World Endurance Event for sportscars and from 2022 a 24 Hour race for motorcycles, rounds of the International GT Open, World Rallycross and a popular historic meeting, the Spa Six Hours. There’s even a 25 hour race for Citroën 2CVs to round off the racing season.
The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps can be found near to the town of Francorchamps in eastern Belgium, close to the borders with Germany and the Netherlands. If you are flying to Spa, there are plenty of choices thanks to the circuit’s central European location. The nearest international airport is actually over the border in the Netherlands; Maastricht Aachen Airport is approximately a 50 minutes drive from the circuit. An alternative airport with international flights can be found at Düsseldorf, Germany (a 90 minute drive away. The nearest major airport in Belgium is at Brussels Airport is an 85 mile drive (80 mins) away, but some international and domestic flights can also be found at South Charleroi Airport, which is also about an 80 minute drive.
Stats and facts
Since 1950, 53 Belgian Grands Prix have been held at the Spa Francorchamps circuit. In that time, 27 different drivers have won a race at the track.
Former Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher has the most wins at the Spa Francorchamps circuit, with six in total. At the same time, Scuderia Ferrari are the most successful team at this track, with fourteen victories up to date; two ahead of McLaren. Ferrari-engined cars have also taken the most wins here, with fourteen compared to ten Mercedes-powered victories. British drivers have won here more often than drivers from any other nation, having stood on the top step sixteen times.
Alberto Ascari, Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Ayrton Senna, Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen are the seven drivers who have taken back-to-back victories at the track. Schumacher is the only driver to have taken consecutive victories on multiple occasions, having done so in 1995, 1996 and 1997 and then again in 2001 and 2002.
Jim Clark and Ayrton Senna share the record for the most consecutive victories here, with four. Clark won in every season between 1962 and 1965, while Senna won every year from 1988 to 1991. Their wins also mean that Lotus and McLaren share the record for most consecutive team wins at the track.
The longest streak of different winners at this track came between 1965 and 1986, when there were no repeat victors in the eight races held at the track during the period.
The smallest win margin at Spa came back in 1961, when Phil Hill took victory by finishing just 0.7 seconds ahead of Wolfgang von Trips. The largest win margin seen at the track followed two years later, as Jim Clark won by a colossal 474 seconds.
Overall, the average win margin at Spa Francorchamps is 34.598 seconds. From the last ten Belgian Grands Prix, the average win margin has been 6.975 seconds.
Seven time Formula 1 world champion Michael Schumacher has the most podium finishes at the track, with nine in total. Ferrari are the team with the most podium finishes here, with 29 in total. Meanwhile, it’s British drivers who lead the way in terms of most podiums for a nationality at Spa. British drivers have had 38 top three finishes at the track in total.
Mercedes hold the record for most consecutive team poles at the track, with six in a row between 2013 and 2018. The streak was ended by Scuderia Ferrari in two years ago thanks to Charles Leclerc.