Ferrari Heading for the Belgian Grand Prix
Maranello – Even if we are still in the second week of the summer break, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro’s thoughts are already focussed on the next challenge, the Belgian Grand Prix at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit. The thirteenth round of the championship, in the Ardennes, is a significant one for the Maranello crew, as it has been the venue for some amazing wins, dating back to 1952 and ’53, with Alberto Ascari at the wheel of the Ferrari 500 F2. After that came victories for Peter Collins in a Ferrari D50 in 1956, Phil Hill in 1961 at the wheel of an F156 and John Surtees driving a Ferrari 312F1-66 in 1966. From 1971 to 1982, the Belgian Grand Prix moved to Zolder and Nivelles, before the return to Spa saw Ferrari back in the winner’s enclosure courtesy of Michael Schumacher, who has won here more often than any other driver: in 1996 in the F310, 1997 in the F310B, 2001 in the F2001 and 2002 in the F2002.
After this string of victories, it fell to Kimi Raikkonen to pick up the baton, in 2007 in the F2007 and in 2009 with the F60, and in between, in 2008, Felipe Massa stood on the top step of the podium for the reds.
Spa Francorchamps, Belgium’s oldest and most famous circuit, hosted the first Belgian Grand Prix in 1950 and went on to do so through to 1970. The long high speed track was the brainchild of Jules de Their and Henri Langlois Van Ophem, using the three main roads that linked the Ardennes towns of Malmedy, Stavelot and Francorchamps. At almost fourteen kilometres in length, the triangular track was one of the longest on the calendar, as well as being one of the most demanding, with its interminable straights. In the second half of the 60s, the layout was modified as much as was possible, given it used public roads, to meet new safety standards, however, it was still deemed too dangerous given the ever increasing speed of the cars through the corners, thanks to the advent of wings, so the event was switched, first to Nivelles, which staged the race twice and then to Zolder for ten years.
Not until 1983 did the Grand Prix return to Spa, after it had been modernised to make it safer, albeit slower and shorter. The new semi-permanent track measured around seven kilometres, still using sections of public road, from Blanchimont corner to the Kemmel straight, along with the old La Source hairpin and a new permanent section which linked the two remaining extremities of the old layout. The double chicane was added, going by the name of Bus Stop and new pits were built just after this final corner, to conform with regulations requiring a level area for the garages. Over the years, other changes have been introduced, at the chicane, to the run-off areas and, thanks to a new road built around the circuit, it is no longer used by normal traffic, so it is effectively a permanent track. Despite all these changes, Spa is still one of the most spectacular venues on the calendar, with corners such as Eau Rouge, a theoretically flat-out left-right kink on the way up a hill and named after the stream that runs nearby and of course the unpredictable weather always has to have it say.