Even the most unaware of us know that Formula One racing takes place on a huge amount of champagne-drenched circuits across the globe. Google “favourite Grand Prix courses” and you’ll find that Belgium’s Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is consistently top of anyone’s list, from amateur blogger to expert reviewer.
But why? We’ve taken a look at this world-famous track to guess why fans and drivers alike love the circuit and its home country.
The first hairpin turn of the race is an infamously sharp one, making it a breathtaking sight to witness and a heart-stopping one to hear. After taking the corner, the drivers speed down the bank at a tremendous rate. The vertical and lateral g-forces at play when the car reaches the bottom of the hill and zooms through the weaving Eau Rouge section must be as exhilarating to watch as they are to manoeuvre. Throughout the circuit, the cars meet a host of further high-speed corners such as Rivage and Blanchimont, as well as plenty of slower ones including Malmedy and Les Combes. Slower paced maybe, but they still demand absolute precision to accomplish without catastrophe. This perfect blend of Spa-Francorchamps’ twists and turns is surely a mighty contributor of the circuit’s fame.
Perhaps the auto-adoring audience love the ‘calm vs. contest’ contrast that dominates the area during the race? This circuit is found in the peaceful forests outside Francorchamps, where serenity, nature and relaxing ambles reign supreme. But the lush terrain comes alive for Grand Prix. The clamour of excited fans and buzz of competitive drivers transform the land into a hub of hysteria that would look completely out of place from a bird’s-eye-view. Seeing a place reach the level of frenzied excitement that only a global sporting tournament can achieve amid such untapped tranquillity must be quite the experience.
The Belgian way
As if it needs saying, surely the host itself plays a part in its course’s stardom. Belgium has been a popular city-break destination for decades and continues to attract tourists to this day. Found in northern Europe, Belgium is flanked by distinguished countries and claims a short but crucial coastline on the North Sea. This country has a unique culture of traditional values sprinkled with a unique mix of Dutch, French and German influences. Modern and traditional arts are hugely appreciated in Belgium, and you can enjoy a variety of art and history museums, century-old architecture, and local Belgian festivals during your stay.
Chocolate and lager instantly spring to mind when you think of Belgian culinary delights, but it’s also renowned for both its waffles and French fries with mayonnaise. Of course, your eyes are surely on the prize when attending the Grand Prix, but who’s to say you can’t savour some treats too? You can discover the secrets behind chocolate creation at nearby La Roche-en-Ardenne, or merely sit back and sample a range of Belgian beers, from Leffe to Hoegaarden.
Its impact on Grand Prix antiquity
The colourful history of Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is a serious boost to its allure. Built in 1921 for hosting Grand Prix events; it was actually used for motorcycle racing for its first three years and has been appointed The European Grand Prix six times between the 1925 and 1973. It’s also famously rained at the Belgian Grand Prix a massive 20 times in a row. Belgium’s circuit has gone through an array of changes including: relocation, scrapping slow turns, cancellations in the 1950s due to the Suez crisis, and Michael Schumacher surpassing the current world title by winning his 52nd Grand Prix here. As you can see, this Belgian track has a chequered-flag past to keep even an uninterested audience entertained and intrigued.
Once considered the fastest circuit on the continent, the Spa-Francorchamps was eventually excluded in 1971 due to the refusal of authorities to make suggested changes. It was notorious for its slippery roads, high-speed sharp turns, and sending its drivers hurtling through public areas. As a result, Belgian authorities moved the race to another area. But the plucky Spa-Francorchamps fought back by cutting out perilous obstructions and roads through urban areas to boost its safety value. In 1985, it was even given an asphalt makeover to combat the constantly rain-soaked track. Unfortunately, an ironically hot day followed, breaking up the new safety feature so badly that cars couldn’t drive on it. But the thought was there, at least.
With only a little digging, you soon uncover a treasure trove of delights that each help elevate Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps into the top of the racing-lover’s list. Now with 7km of track, 44 laps and a promise of world-famous drivers vying to hurtle passed the chequered flag first, this year’s race is set to be just as eventful.
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