With a history dating back to 1925, the Belgian Grand Prix is one of the longest established races on the Formula 1 calendar. That first race took place on the challenging Spa-Francorchamps on the 14km public road circuit which was fast, twisty and extremely dangerous. Numerous modifications to the track were made in the years preceding the first Formula One Belgian GP in 1950 which was won by Grand Prix legend Juan Manuel Fangio. This season’s Belgian Grand Prix will take place at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on 28th July 2024.
Some modifications were made to the circuit so as to increase the speeds on some of the slow areas of the track, as the Belgians were proud that their track was very fast and very challenging. But due to several fatal accidents, many changes were made to the circuit through the years. In 1966, Jackie Stewart crashed at Spa, which led to his crusade to make racing circuits safer for drivers. Stewart won the Belgian GP in 1973 at Zolder.
The current 7.004km circuit was introduced in 1979 and remains the longest track in the Formula 1 championship. Even with the many modifications to the track, the most popular of Spa’s 21 turns, the Eau Rouge-Raidillon, is as glorious as ever before, even if less cars have spun off from the famous corner due to the improved skills of the drivers and the developed downforce of the cars.
History of the Belgian Grand Prix
After the initial Belgian Grand Prix in 1925, the event was was held at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on seven occasions during the 1930s then more regularly from the 1950s onwards. Because the Spa circuit became notorious as a fatal course, not only for drivers, but marshals and mechanics as well, the Belgian Grand Prix was relocated to Nivelles in 1972, where it was planned to alternate between the very unpopular circuit and the Circuit de Zolder. Nivelles was, in fact, so unpopular that Zolder would be the only host circuit of Belgian Grand Prix from 1975 until the Circuit de Spa-Francochamps was reopened in 1983. Zolder is unfortunately best remembered as the venue of Gilles Villeneuve’s death in 1982.
Memorable Belgian GP moments include Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell’s epic duel in 1987, Michael Schumacher’s first F1 win in 1992 and Damon Hill’s huge crash at Pouhon corner in 1998. Spa Francorchamps has crowned many great drivers thanks to its unique high speed challenges and remains a firm favorite for fans and drivers.
Belgian Grand Prix Circuit
Spa-Francorchamps is a high speed circuit which features some of the most iconic corners in motorsport. After the start/finish straight, drivers head downhill through the intimidating Eau Rouge corner, a 180 km/h right-left flick taken almost flat out.
Next up is the Radillon corner which blasts cars uphill at over 300km/h. The Kemmel straight then leads into Les Combes, a second gear chicane. Rivage and Pouhon put lateral forces through cars before the sweeping downhill left of Fagnes. The new slow chicane at Malmedy keeps speed in check before cars sprint to the fast right hander of Stavelot. The winding and technical middle sector features Blanchimont, a super high speed left hander, before cars retake Eau Rouge and sprint to the chequered flag.
Elevation change is the circuit’s signature, with the cars constantly going up and downhill through fast sweeps like Eau Rouge and Blanchimont. It’s a challenging track requiring a well balanced car and total commitment from drivers. Spa rewards bravery and punishes mistakes heavily. The unpredictable Ardennes weather often plays a role, with rain and sunshine sometimes alternating during the race.
Winners of the Belgian Grand Prix
The first winner at the Belgian Grand Prix in 1925 was Antonio Ascari. Later his son, Alberto, would continue to bring glory to his family name when the younger Ascari won the Belgian Grand Prix in 1952 and 1953.
Michael Schumacher still holds the record for most wins at the Belgian Grand Prix, but Spa is doubly special for Schumacher as his first race in an F1 championship was at this circuit in 1991, and where he won his very first GP a year later. In 2001, Schumacher broke Ayrton Senna’s record of the most GP wins with the 2001 Belgian Grand Prix marking his 52nd win. At Spa, Schumacher won 6 times, as well as finishing first in 1994 but was disqualified and had to relinquish the win to Damon Hill, who has won the Belgian Grand Prix two other times.
Jim Clark won at Spa four times in the 1960s, while Senna won five times at the same circuit in the late 80s. After Schumacher, Kimi Räikkönen and Lewis Hamilton dominated the race with four wins each before Max Verstappen became the king of the Belgian Grand Prix enjoying three victories from 2021-23.
Here are the winners of the last decade of action at Spa:
Fan Guide to the Belgian Grand Prix
Getting to the Belgian Grand Prix
For international fans, Brussels is the nearest major airport to the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Brussels is 85km from the track and well connected by rail. Frequent trains run from Brussels Airport and Brussels city centre to Verviers station, just 10km from the circuit. Shuttle buses run race day transfers for the short journey to the circuit.
Motorhomes and campervans are popular choices for race weekends, with camping available in the forests around Spa-Francorchamps. Local towns Stavelot and Malmedy also offer good budget accommodation within half an hour of the circuit. But book well in advance as rooms fill up fast.
On race day, use the park and ride facilities to get to the track hassle-free. Shuttle buses will get you into the heart of the action. The famous atmosphere builds throughout the weekend in the forests surrounding the circuit, with fans soaking up the racing action.
Belgian Grand Prix Tickets
Tickets for the Belgian Grand Prix usually go on sale several months in advance via the official F1 tickets website. Bronze general admission weekend tickets start from around €250 with prices rising to over €750 for the Gold Grandstand weekend tickets. Always book tickets early, as the most popular grandstands sell out many months in advance. The atmosphere at Spa over a race weekend is not to be missed. The passionate Belgian fans will make sure you experience all the excitement and drama at one of the great events on the Formula 1 calendar.