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WATCH: Lewis and Kimi’s epic battle and 9 other classic Spa moments

19 Aug 2016

Spa-Francorchamps is one of F1’s most revered venues, and with good reason - not only is the Belgian track a drivers’ favourite, it’s also witnessed some truly spectacular racing. Here’s our pick of some of the most memorable moments of recent times…

Hamilton and Raikkonen fight to the finish, 2008 

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The 2008 race in Belgium saw Kimi Raikkonen seeking a fourth successive win at Spa, and, having assumed the lead on lap 2 after Lewis Hamilton had spun out of P1, the Iceman was on course to get it - that was until Hamilton roared back into contention in the dying stages, as rain began to fall. A stunning battle for the lead ensued, with Hamilton eventually making it past the Finn and going on to take the chequered flag - with Raikkonen’s own challenge ending in the barriers. But there would be a further twist in the tail. Having celebrated victory on the podium, Hamilton was subsequently relegated to third after being handed a controversial 25-second time penalty for an earlier off-track pass of Raikkonen at the Bus Stop chicane. McLaren argued that the Briton had ceded position back to the Finn before re-taking the lead, but their protests fell on deaf ears. Worse still for the Woking team, Felipe Massa - Hamilton’s chief rival for the championship - became the recipient of an unlikely win. 

 

Alonso gets off to a flyer, 2013

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It’s one of the odder statistical quirks in F1 that Fernando Alonso, one of the finest drivers of his or any other generation, has never won at Spa-Francorchamps - the ultimate drivers’ track. But that’s not to say the Spaniard hasn’t impressed at the Belgian venue - quite the opposite. In 2013 the double world champion caught the eye with one of his trademark flying starts from ninth on the grid, his racer’s instinct helping him pass four cars in just a few hundred metres - including Mark Webber’s Red Bull on the flat-out entry to Eau Rouge. The Ferrari star would eventually finish a fighting second to Sebastian Vettel.

 

Raging Schumacher seeks out Coulthard after clash, 1998

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"I can't remember ever losing control in that way and hope it will never happen again,” said Michael Schumacher a short time after his famous confrontation with David Coulthard in the Spa pit lane, during which he’d grabbed the Scot by the collar and indignantly asked “Are you trying to ******* kill me?” Moments earlier the German had returned to the pits with just three wheels on his wagon, one of them having been ripped from its moorings when, in appalling conditions, the runaway race leader had ploughed unceremoniously into the back of Coulthard’s lapped McLaren. At the time the stewards found no case against Coulthard, but several years later the Scot admitted his fault. “[Michael’s] reaction was that I'd brake tested him,” he explained. "The reality is, I lifted off to let him past me but I did it in heavy spray on the racing line. You should never do that. I would never do that now. But in '98 I didn't have the experience and the knowledge.”
 

Vettel’s Bus Stop bust-up with Button, 2010 

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For the majority of 2010, Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull was a flying machine, but in Belgium it briefly turned torpedo - with Jenson Button’s McLaren the unlucky target. “It was a very strange incident,” said a disgruntled Button, who had been defending second position before being punted into retirement. “Clearly, he didn’t do it on purpose… but I have to say I’ve got no idea what he was doing.” As it turned out, Vettel had a simple explanation of what had happened: “I lost the car going over the bump as I was braking… obviously I’m not proud of it.”

 
Raikkonen charges to the front, 2004

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The 2005 Japanese Grand Prix is often cited as Kimi Raikkonen’s finest victory, the Finn winning from 17th on the grid with a last-lap pass of Giancarlo Fisichella. But the Iceman’s triumph at Spa a year earlier - the first of his four wins at the classic Ardennes venue and just his second Grand Prix success ever - was only marginally less epic. In a difficult season for McLaren, Raikkonen had registered just one podium finish prior to Belgium, and things looked bad when, despite strong practice form, he could only manage 10th on the grid. But in the race Kimi brilliantly carved his way up the order, picking off the likes of Michael Schumacher and team mate David Coulthard before superbly managing two safety-car re-starts to take a sensational victory.

 

Ricciardo profits as Rosberg and Hamilton collide, 2014

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For the first part of 2014 Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg enjoyed a fiercely competitive intra-team rivalry, albeit one without any major on-track flashpoints. But all that changed in Belgium when, with the race for the world title hotting up, the Mercedes duo clashed in the early stages of the race whilst disputing the lead. "Today we saw our worst case scenario,” said Mercedes chief Toto Wolff after seeing Rosberg recover to second, Hamilton retire and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo take a surprise win. "It has been our clear policy to let the drivers race this year but rule number one is: don't hit each other. To see that kind of contact, so early in the race, is an unacceptable level of risk to be taking out on track.” Clear-the-air talks followed, along with a Rosberg apology and some famous last words from Wolff: "It cannot - and will not - happen again." Oh, would that it were so, Toto…

 

Magnussen pushes Alonso too far in four-way fight for fifth, 2014

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If Rosberg and Hamilton’s clash provided the drama at the start of the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix, then the feisty scrap for fifth between the McLarens of Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull was undoubtedly the late-race highlight. The action kicked off with Magnussen edging Alonso onto the grass on the 330km/h Kemmel Straight - a move that allowed Button to sweep by the Spaniard and would subsequently earn the Dane a 20-second time penalty. Alonso soon got back ahead of the Brit, but a subsequent attempt to pass Magnussen ended with the Spaniard off the road again and Vettel slipping past. Frantic, hard-fought and utterly compelling racing.  

 

Webber makes Eau Rouge his passing place, 2011

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Having dropped down the order at the start after his car mistakenly kicked into anti-stall, Mark Webber was in no mood to hang about when, on lap nine, he encountered Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari on the exit of La Source, the Spaniard having just exited the pits. “We both were in a position to get to the bottom of Eau Rouge pretty evenly and I was pretty keen to grab that first,” Webber explained recently. “Also I wanted to make sure I had the middle sector to myself because traditionally we [Red Bull] were a bit stronger there, so I wanted to get the move done at the bottom and in the end we went through it together. There was an immense trust between the pair of us…” Trust - that and a whole heap of Aussie grit. 

 

Fisichella the star as Force India take stunning pole, 2009

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“We were sure we’d be in the top 15, but we knew it would difficult to get in the top ten” - Giancarlo Fisichella wasn’t exactly boiling over with optimism ahead of qualifying for the 2009 race in Belgium, but then why would he have been? In the season’s 11 previous races the 36-year-old had qualified no better than 13th, but at Spa his Force India was suddenly - out of nowhere - bang on the pace, enabling Fisichella to take a shock pole position. “When you do a pole position with a good car it’s fantastic for sure, but when you do it like today, in my case not with a winning car but with a small team with a limited budget, it’s something very amazing, very unusual,” beamed the Italian. But Force India’s dream weekend didn’t end there. The next day an effervescent Fisi finished a fine second to Spa specialist Kimi Raikkonen - a performance that helped earn him a seat alongside the Finn at Ferrari for the rest of the season.

 

Final-lap passes lift Alonso back to fourth, 2008

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When the rain began to fall in the final throws of the 2008 Belgian Grand Prix, the drivers faced that age-old dilemma: stick on slicks and attempt to make it to the end without losing positions (or driving off the road) or pit for intermediate tyres and hope the additional grip would more than make up for any time lost. Many opted for the former, but Renault’s Fernando Alonso - running a vulnerable third, with the already inter-shod Nick Heidfeld closing fast - opted to stop for treaded rubber with just one lap to go. He emerged from the pits in eighth, but as this remarkable onboard shows, throwing caution to the wind he managed to pick off four tip-toeing cars on the last lap - including Robert Kubica’s BMW and Sebastian Vettel’s Toro Rosso out of the final corner - to finish fourth. The gamble had paid off.