From the most expensive F1 crash in history, to the debut of a seven-time World Champion and memorable wet weather duels, here are seven of the most memorable moments which have happened at the Belgian Grand Prix!
1991: Schumacher’s Formula 1 debut
Eddie Jordan was a driver down ahead of the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix, with Bertrand Gachot having been sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for an altercation with a taxi driver. Jordan turned to promising Formula 3 star Michael Schumacher – and the German impressed on his maiden appearance.
1991 was the Jordan team’s first year in Formula 1 and on his first appearance, Schumacher equalled the team’s best-ever qualifying result with seventh place. Schumacher did not get carried away with his performance though, stating that he just wanted to “finish the race”. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. Schumacher was up to fifth at the first corner but a clutch issue saw him retire just a few hundred metres later. The eventual seven-time World Champion would go on to take his maiden win at the venue one year later.
1998: The most expensive F1 crash
The 1998 Belgian Grand Prix was held in atrociously wet conditions. While the cars miraculously made it through Turn 1 unscathed, the next straight was to be a scene of mayhem. David Coulthard lost control of his car and aquaplaned into the wall. His McLaren car bounced back across the circuit – and very few cars behind made it through the resulting carnage. The estimated cost of the pile up? An eye-watering $13 million!
Coulthard made headlines again later in the race following a collision with Michael Schumacher when the Ferrari driver was lapping him. Unimpressed as he retired from the race while leading, Schumacher stormed down the pit lane to give the McLaren driver a piece of his mind.
2000: Hakkinen’s stunning overtake
Mika Hakkinen pulled off one of the most memorable overtakes in Formula 1 at the 2000 Belgian Grand Prix. Reigning champion Hakkinen and Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher had exchanged the lead throughout the race, but with three laps to go, it was Schumacher who was ahead.
With Schumacher suffering with tyre wear, Hakkinen closed down the gap and was on the Ferrari’s tail as the pair went through Eau Rouge. Along the Kemmel Straight, the duo closed in on backmarker Ricardo Zonta. Hakkinen sensed an opportunity: while Schumacher went to the left of the BAR, Hakkinen went to the right and swept by both cars. That gave Hakkinen the lead – and the Finn went on to secure the victory.
2004: Schumacher wins his seventh title
Michael Schumacher is the only driver to secure a title victory at Spa Francorchamps. He did so in 2004, winning the championship for the seventh and final time. While Kimi Raikkonen won the race – taking McLaren’s only victory of the 2004 season – Schumacher’s second place ensured that no one could topple his points tally with four races remaining in the year. The German celebrated his title on the podium in front of the fans who had invaded the track. Schumacher’s record of seven titles was not equalled until 2020, when Lewis Hamilton secured his seventh title at the 2020 Turkish Grand Prix.
2008: Raikkonen and Hamilton duel in the wet
The 2008 Belgian Grand Prix was held under grey skies, with the track still drying out at the start of the race from rain earlier in the morning. Lewis Hamilton started from pole position, but a spin on the second lap saw him lose the lead to Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn led for much of the remainder of the afternoon. But the story of the race changed as rain closed in during the final laps.
Hamilton brought Raikkonen’s lead down to under a second as the McLaren driver coped better in the worsening conditions. Hamilton overtook the Ferrari with two laps remaining – just before the rain began to pour. Raikkonen chased down the McLaren and despite a wide moment was able to get back past Hamilton as the pair encountered lapped traffic. While Hamilton took to the grass, Raikkonen made a mistake coming out of the corner and spun off into the wall.
Hamilton continued in the lead on dry tyres in the treacherous conditions. He’d stay on the road to secure the win. That wasn’t to be the final result, though. Hamilton was deemed to have gained a lasting advantage after overtaking Raikkonen off the track – despite giving the position back. The McLaren driver was handed a 25 second penalty, and Felipe Massa inherited the win.
2012: Grosjean’s first corner crash
Spa’s tight first turn means that collisions at the opening corner are commonplace at the Belgian Grand Prix. The most dramatic of those collisions came in 2012, with a crash which eliminated four drivers at Turn 1.
After making a good start, an overambitious Romain Grosjean failed to slow sufficiently for the first turn and his Lotus car clattered into the side of Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren. That caused a chain reaction. Grosjean went on to hit the back of Sergio Perez’s Sauber before flying over the top of Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari – luckily, just avoiding contact with the Spaniard’s helmet. While Grosjean, Alonso, Hamilton and Perez were eliminated on the spot, Kamui Kobayashi and Pastor Maldonado were also caught up in the carnage, each needing to pit for repairs.
As a result of his crash, Romain Grosjean was given a €50,000 fine and a one-race ban, which he served at the next race.
2019: Leclerc’s first victory
After an impressive first half to his first season with Ferrari, Charles Leclerc recorded his maiden F1 win at the 2019 Belgian Grand Prix. The Monegasque driver took pole position for the race and led until the first round of pit stops. Leclerc was soon back into the lead – but came under increasing pressure from Lewis Hamilton towards the end of the race. Hamilton closed to within a second of Leclerc on the final lap, but the Ferrari driver held on to become Formula 1’s 108th different winner.
Leclerc celebrates his maiden win on the podium. (Image: © Andrew Balfour)
The win was a particularly poignant one, coming just a day after Formula 2 driver – and Leclerc’s childhood friend – Anthoine Hubert lost his life as a result of a crash in the Saturday afternoon race. After the Grand Prix, Leclerc dedicated his victory to the Frenchman.