Top 5 Belgian Grands Prix
It’s the halfway point of the 2023 Formula 1 season and the cars will go around in anger at one more race before the traditional northern hemisphere summer break.
And while Hungary might not have delivered the best spectacle ever seen, there is hope on the horizon as we head to one of the greatest circuits in the world, Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix.
At just over 7km long, the Spa circuit is a favourite amongst drivers and fans alike. With sweeping turns, high speed straights and the legendary Eau-Rouge corner, it rarely fails to deliver exciting racing.
The Belgian Grand Prix first appeared on the F1 calendar as a World Championship race in the very first year of the official calendar in 1950, and has been held a total of 67 times. Of those 67 races, 55 have been held at Spa, with the other 12 being shared between Zolder and Nivelles.
Australia has seen two victories over the years in Belgium, with Sir Jack Brabham winning for Cooper in 1960 and Daniel Ricciardo winning in 2014 for Red Bull.
With so many legendary and famous races to choose from, which will make the top 5 of all time? Let’s find out.
5. 1985 – Winner: Ayrton Senna (Lotus)
The second win in Ayrton Senna’s career certainly was a memorable won.
Senna started second on the grid behind pole sitter (and future rival) Alain Prost and pressured the Frenchman early on while holding off several cars behind him.
Eventually Senna made his way past Prost and continued his brilliant defensive driving from a large chasing pack which included Prost, Nigel Mansell, Michele Alboreto and Stefan Johansson
As the rain came, Senna was able to finally etch his way from the pack and setup a memorable first win in Belgium.
4. 2004 – Winner: Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren)
A bit of a topsy turvy race with plenty of attrition, this race saw Kimi Raikkonen win McLaren’s only race in 2004 and Michael Schumacher seal a record seventh World Championship and the last of his career.
After an incident filled lap one which saw nearly half the field either retire or pit for damage, Kimi Raikkonen was able to slowly make his way through the field having started in tenth place. By lap 12 he had taken the lead, and after the first round of pit stops, he lead outright once again by lap 17.
As he attempted to increase his lead over Michael Schumacher, there were still plenty of incidents happening behind him, including a memorable tyre blowout to Jenson Button’s BAR who took out the Minardi of Zsolt Baumgartner in the process to bring out the safety car for one of many times that day.
Through all the carnage however Raikkonen held on to win and give McLaren a much needed victory in a difficult 2004 season for them.
3. 1992 – Winner: Michael Schumacher (Benetton)
When you think of Belgium, you think of Michael Schumacher.
In 1991 he announced himself to the world with his stunning debut for Jordan, and a year later he made that announcement even louder with his maiden win.
The race, as is typically the case in Belgium, was wet and dry, and Schumacher had started third behind the faster Williams of Nigel Mansell and McLaren of Ayrton Senna.
The changeable conditions helped his push towards his first win, and one defining moment of brilliance would help him achieve that.
Schumacher slid off the track during the race and fell behind his Benetton teammate Martin Brundle. From here he saw how Brundle’s wet tyres were blistering badly on a drying track, and Schumacher made the decision to pit immediately to fit dry tyres.
It was a genius move that would win him the race, and set the foundation for what would be one of the greatest F1 careers of all time.
2. 2000 – Winner: Mika Hakkinen (McLaren)
If we’re being fair, the 2000 Belgian Grand Prix wasn’t a super memorable one but for ONE moment on lap 41.
Michael Schumacher had lead a large portion of the race from pole sitter Mika Hakkinen, but the Finn had a much faster car and was right in Schumacher’s mirrors with less than five laps to go.
On lap 40, Hakkinen went for a move in his McLaren on Schumacher’s Ferrari on the Kemmel Straight, but Schumacher promptly blocked Hakkinen and nearly shoved him off the track in the approach to Les Combes, an overly aggressive move that saw the then reigning World Champion shake his fist at Schumacher in anger.
Learning from Schumacher’s defensive moves a lap later, Hakkinen had the benefit of a backmarker car in Ricardo Zonta’s BAR to help him make the move stick a second time. Schumacher swerved to the left to lap Zonta while Hakkinen went to the right and amazingly swept right in front of both cars to take the lead and go on to win the race.
By far one of the greatest overtaking moves in the history of F1, which makes adding this race to this list an easy choice.
1. 1998 – Winner: Damon Hill (Jordan)
One of the most memorable races of all time, and an easy number one on this list. It is best remembered for three things: the start, the crash and the win.
The start saw 13 cars involved in a massive pile-up after David Coulthard in his McLaren smashed into the wall coming out of La Source, causing carnage and mayhem behind which Murray Walker famously stated was “the worst start I have ever seen in my whole life”.
Nearly an hour later the race restarted, with Damon Hill in a Jordan sweeping into the lead. It was a position he would hold for only eight laps until his former arch-rival Michael Schumacher took the lead for Ferrari.
It looked like a dominant win for the German, who after 25 laps had a massive 40-second lead over Hill as he went to lap David Coulthard’s McLaren, who had added to his already difficult race by colliding with Alex Wurz on the restart.
Coulthard seemingly slowed to allow Schumacher through but did so on the racing line, and given the amount of spray in the incredibly wet conditions, Schumacher was unable to see Coulthard and rammed right into the back of him, causing him to retire.
Limping back to the pits, Schumacher stormed from his car to the McLaren pit box to confront him and was held back by both McLaren and Ferrari mechanics to prevent a more physical altercation from taking place.
Meanwhile on track it was time for Jordan to take advantage of all the carnage. Damon Hill lead once again but was being chased hard by teammate Ralf Schumacher. In what was looking like a 1-2 for Jordan, Hill made the call to his mechanics to ‘suggest’ Ralf not fight him for the win so there wouldn’t be any incident between the pair.
After seemingly ignoring the radio message to hold station, Ralf eventually obliged and the pair crossed the line to seal the team’s first ever win and do so with a 1-2.
An amazing race that still lives rent free in any F1 fans head 25 years later.
Do you agree with this list? Which Belgian Grand Prix is your favourite? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
This article was originally written for The Roar. You can read the published version here