Following its annual summer break, Formula 1 returns to action this weekend at the legendary Spa Francorchamps circuit for the Belgian Grand Prix, one of the highlights on the calendar. With iconic names such as La Source, Eau Rouge and Pouhon, Spa Francorchamps is synonymous with the good and the great of motor-racing.
Spa Francorchamps can trace its roots back to the early 1920s and Grand Prix racing took off around the 14 kilometre circuit, which negotiated its way from the village of Francorchamps, via Burnenville, the feared Masta kink and Stavelot, before winding back towards the La Source hairpin.
Naturally, over time, safety concerns led to vocal objection to racing at the track and after 1971, Formula 1 stopped visiting Spa Francorchamps, instead alternating between Nivelles and Zolder and before setting up home at the latter.
From 1985 the sport returned to a truncated but adored seven kilometres and the race has been held for all but two season since.
The first and third sectors are all about power – including the long run from La Source to Les Combes via Eau Rouge, Raidillon and Kemmel – while the middle chunk of the lap places an emphasis on downforce, with the high speed Pouhon complex and the direction changes at Pif Paf.
“It's one of the really great, old-school circuits with so much history,” says 2010 victor Lewis Hamilton.
“It's mostly medium to high speed corners, so you're pretty much pedal to the metal the whole way round which is a lot of fun.”
World Champion Lewis Hamilton heads to Belgium with a 21 point lead over Nico Rosberg in the championship, with the pair set to resume battle at the track where they collided in 2014, clearing Daniel Ricciardo’s path to victory.
That set the scene for Red Bull’s third win from the most recent four Belgian Grands Prix, with Sebastian Vettel victorious in 2011 and 2013, sandwiching Jenson Button’s sole win at the track.
However, the current driver with the greatest success at the circuit is Kimi Räikkönen, who has taken four victories at the fabled track, two with McLaren and two with Ferrari, in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2009.
Pirelli has opted to bring its Soft (yellow) and Medium (white) tyre compounds for this weekend’s race.
The DRS zones will be on the pit straight and along the Kemmel straight and the driver steward is five-time Le Mans winner Emanuele Pirro.
Timetable (GMT +2):
Friday 21 August
- Practice One: 10:00 – 11:30
- Practice Two: 14:00 – 15:30
Saturday 22 August
- Practice Three: 10:00 – 11:00
- Qualifying: 13:00 (60 minutes)
Sunday 23 August
- Race: 13:00 (70 laps or two hours)