Did you know that Spa-Francorchamps remains one of the few Grands Prix circuits at which Fernando Alonso is yet to triumph? Or that it holds the very unusual distinction of hosting F1 twice within the same calendar year? On the eve of the 2015 Formula 1 Shell Belgian Grand Prix, we present all the need-to-know stats, facts and trivia...
This year sees Spa-Francorchamps host its 48th world championship Grand Prix. Only Monza (64), Monaco (62) and Silverstone (49) - tracks that, like Spa, were on the original F1 calendar in 1950 - have hosted more. However, you could argue that Spa has actually hosted F1 49 times - in 1985 the event was abandoned after second practice when the newly laid track surface began to break up. The race was rescheduled, eventually taking place three months later.
It may now be less than half its original length (a staggering 14.1 km), but at 7.004 km Spa-Franchorchamps remains - by some margin - the longest circuit on the F1 calendar. Its distance is more than double that of the shortest track, the 3.337 km Circuit de Monaco.
Kimi Raikkonen has far and away the best record of any current driver at Spa, taking four wins and one other podium finish. Overall the Finn has 20 Grand Prix victories to his name, meaning a fifth of his triumphs have come on Belgian soil. Last year the Ferrari driver finished fourth - his best result of the season, but the only time he has reached the chequered flag at Spa and not stood on the podium.
Of the other drivers on the grid, Sebastian Vettel has won at Spa twice, whilst Felipe Massa, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Daniel Ricciardo each have one victory at the classic venue to their name.
A notable omission from the roll call of Belgian Grand Prix winners is Fernando Alonso. The 32-time F1 victor has scored three podiums from 11 appearances at Spa (2005, 2007 and 2013), but has also recorded five DNFs. The only other current circuits where Alonso is still chasing a victory are Interlagos (best result of second); Spielberg (best result of fifth); Sochi (best result of sixth); and Yas Marina (best result of second).
Lewis Hamilton is the only current driver to have taken more than one pole position at Spa, although he needs two more to match the record of four held jointly by Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.
Speaking of Senna, the great Brazilian won at Spa five times, including four successive victories between 1988 and 1991 - a record bettered only by Michael Schumacher. The German made his F1 debut at the Belgian circuit in ‘91 and took his maiden Grand Prix victory there a year later. Interestingly, only one of Schumacher’s six Spa wins came from pole (in 2002) - a record very similar to that of Jim Clark, who made up a total of 24 places on his way to a quartet of Belgian victories, each from lower than P1 on the grid. The only time the Scot started from pole at Spa (in 1967), he finished sixth.
Given the success of Schumacher, Senna and Clark, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Ferrari (16), McLaren (14) and Lotus (8) have captured the most wins in Belgium. However, Red Bull have won three of the last four races at Spa, including last year’s race with Daniel Ricciardo.
Ricciardo won by just 3.383s last year, but the smallest margin of victory in Spa came in 1961 when Ferrari’s Phil Hill beat team mate Wolfgang von Trips to the flag by just 0.7s. The biggest winning margin came two years later when four minutes and 54 seconds separated race winner Jim Clark and second-placed Bruce McLaren.
Clark started that ’63 race from eighth on the grid, but he’s by no means the only driver to prove that pole isn’t all important at Spa. In fact, just 15 of the 48 races at Spa - and three of the last ten - have been won from pole. The furthest back any winner has started from at Spa is 16th - that was Michael Schumacher in 1995.
20 Belgian drivers have started an F1 race - the most recent being Jerome D’Ambrosio. Jacky Ickx and Thierry Boutsen are the country’s only Grand Prix winners, but neither man managed to win his home event.
Belgium may never have had a home winner, but it can boast the third oldest driver in F1 history. Arthur Legat was 54 years and 232 days old when he started his home race in 1954. He retired with transmission trouble.
There are no Belgian drivers on the grid for this year’s race, though Max Verstappen nearly qualifies. The teenager was born in Belgium to a Belgian mother, but chose to represent the Netherlands, like father Jos. Still, this weekend’s race is as close as Verstappen gets to a home Grand Prix.
Sebastian Vettel’s record streak of nine consecutive wins began in Belgium in 2013, so it seems somewhat appropriate that this should be the track where he makes his 150th Grand Prix start. The German will become the 35th man to reach the milestone.
Vettel could also become the sole owner of the record for most points in F1 history this weekend. The Ferrari driver moved level with Fernando Alonso on 1,778 points with his victory in Hungary last time out.