A history of the Belgian Grand Prix
The Belgian Grand Prix is one of F1's legendary races - mostly down to the Spa-Francorchamps circuit which has held the majority of the events. The circuit held Belgium's first national race in 1925 - it was won by Antonio Ascari, whose son Alberto would win the race in 1952 and 1953 en route to two world championships. The event was an obvious choice for inclusion as one of seven races in the first world championship calendar in 1950.
Spa has a reputation for being a notoriously dangerous circuit; in 1960 Stirling Moss was seriously injured in qualifying, then Chris Bristow and Alan Stacey were killed in the race.
The event was scheduled to take place at Spa in 1969, but when Jackie Stewart visited the circuit on behalf of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, he demanded improvements to the safety barriers and the track surface be carried out before the next event. The circuit owners were unable to make these improvements so British and Italian teams pulled out of the event; it was then cancelled in April.
By 1971 Spa was again considered too dangerous for F1, so it was decided that the race should alternate between Zolder and the Nivelles-Baulers circuit near Brussels. Although safe, the circuit found few fans among the drivers - its characterless layout proving dull after Spa. In 1973 the race was held at Zolder and returned to Nivelles in 1974, but the circuit was facing financial problems and went bankrupt later that year, leaving the Zolder circuit to host the event until 1982.
1981 saw tragedy return to the Belgian Grand Prix, when Osella mechanic Giovanni Amadeo was killed in the pit lane, after being run over by Williams driver Carlos Reutemann. The race was also marred by a serious accident on the start-line which saw Arrows mechanic Dave Luckett break his leg. The following year will be remembered for Gilles Villeneuve's fatal accident in qualifying for the race. In 1983 the event returned to a rebuilt Spa, and the following year Zolder held its final grand prix before the race reverted to Spa full-time.
Michael Schumacher, who has won the event more times than anyone else, made his debut at Spa in 1991, and the following year he won the race.
The event was missing from the calendar in 2003 due to Belgium introducing a ban on tobacco advertising. The race returned in 2004 and 2005 but was missing again in 2006 due to major repairs taking place at the venue. In September 2009 another blow fell on Spa - a complaint made by a group of local residents about noise was passed to the country's highest court who suspended the circuit's operating licence until 2026. On November 18 the licence was reissued until March 2011.