F1: Top 5 Races at Spa-Francorchamps

General View of the 'Eau Rouge' corner and the Start-Finish Straight
'Eau Rouge' corner and the Start-Finish Straight - Spa Francorchamps

With 12 races done and 8 more to go, Formula 1 returns to one of the most famous venues for start of the climax to the 2018 season. And what could be better than kicking off the remainder of a season at the enthralling Spa-Francorchamps, home of the Belgian Grand Prix?

Senna has picked up some amazing wins here, Nico confronted Hamilton here, Hakkinen reminded Schumacher about his prowess and it is here that Kimi's been celebrated as the King of Spa.

Nestled in the serene Ardennes forests and mountains that extend up to Luxembourg, Belgium houses one of the most picturesque F1 circuits on the roster: Spa-Francorchamps.

If there were a circuit that was the litmus test to measure a driver's rigour and a racer's tenacity, you wouldn't have to lurk elsewhere other than the famous Belgian racing circuit.

Before the keenly-awaited 2018 Belgian Grand Prix, let's rewind the clocks to revisit 5 of the many enthralling racing fests to have taken place here.

Ricciardo picks up an action-packed win, 2014

F1 Grand Prix of Belgium
Ricciardo won a thriller at Spa, 2014

You may have your favourites but usually, everyone's happy when a certain Daniel Ricciardo picks up a Grand Prix win. You don't mind that spectacle.

And amongst Ricciardo's most famous wins came here at the Belgian Grand Prix of 2014. A dramatic, action-packed race that saw the two imposing Mercedes' of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton looking strong, challenging each other for the top step of the podium ultimately saw the Australian elope with a win.

Back in 2014- it was an all-out war between Hamilton and Rosberg; the German and Briton often going wheel-to-wheel in a saga that pushed the team to the edge and ultimately on the top step of the constructor's standings, although on this occasion, the feisty contest aided their rivals, Red Bull.

But that said, Ricciardo would want to thank his stars given the unforeseen collision between the warring forces at the Silver Arrows. While in 2014, Ricciardo was in a machinery that was arguably quicker than the Ferrari's of Alonso and Raikkonen, he wasn't in contention for a realistic chance to win given the daunting force and speed of the two Mercedes cars.

But the race would change dramatically right at the start, when inside Lap 2, the two Mercedes drivers came together at Las Combes with Hamilton crying on the team radio, "Oh my god, I can't believe it, Nico hit me, guys."

That led to Hamilton retire prematurely from the beating his car took as Nico would continue pretty much unscathed. Incidentally, it also promoted Ricciardo- who started fifth on the grid- to third.

From thereon, the Australian would battle his teammate Vettel and the waning Mercedes of Rosberg to emerge on the top of the podium. What didn't make for a pretty sight, however, was to see Rosberg booed as he stepped second on the podium behind the race-winner.

Hamilton wins a dominant race, 2017

F1 Grand Prix of Belgium
Hamilton bounced back from his Hungarian GP fiasco to win at Spa, ahead of Vettel

As the Formula 1 entourage headed for the mid-season break in 2017, the odds of a championship win rested in favour of Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel.

Following a strong and dominant performance at the Hungaroring with Vettel and Raikkonen garnering an ecstatic Ferrari 1-2, the feeling of heading into holidays spelt great charm for Vettel. Hamilton, who last won at Hungary in 2016, was denied what could've been a win had it not been for Ferrari's imposing speed at the former Iron Curtain.

After all, what can be a better confidence-booster other than heading in the mid-season halt seeing your name on top of the rankings? Vettel was a happy man and understandably so.

Hamilton, on the other hand, was under pressure in order to snatch the advantage from his archrival but he bounced back superbly at the 2017 Belgian Grand Prix.

Right after the resumption of the 2017 season, Hamilton stormed to a dogged and clinical triumph at Spa-Francorchamps, winning the race by a margin of six-tenths of a second ahead of Ferrari's Vettel.

Back then, it was said that few of Hamilton's (then) 58 race victories were as hard-boiled as the triumph at Belgium. Snatching pole on a cloudy Saturday, the Briton, who also won the 2017 season eventually went on to grab a win in his 200th Formula One race.

Could it get any better for Lewis?

But all throughout the competition, while there were interesting battles further down the grid between the two Finns- Bottas and Raikkonen- and the two Force India drivers, Ocon and Peres, Hamilton was successful in chipping away right at the start, maintaining the lead from the onset of Lap 1.

By the time he hit Turn 1, Hamilton, the pole-sitter, kept himself in the hunt, despite an attacking Sebastian Vettel, beginning from second on the grid.

But by the time the race went into Lap 2, Vettel was beginning to look stronger, getting a great slipstream to pass Hamilton. Then, at Les Combes the two drivers, amongst the greats in the sport, went literally wheel-to-wheel but Hamilton kept Vettel at bay.

There was no dearth of drama in the race as Raikkonen was handed a 10-second stop go for failing to slow down under a double yellow flag and the two Force Indias collided, eventually emerging unscathed from a sudden collision.

By Lap 17, Hamilton set a belter of a lap at 1:49:1 and seemed the fastest man on the grid. He'd maintain the lead for more laps and by the time the race exceeded the halfway stage, it seemed no one had an answer to curb Hamilton, the race-leader in Lap 29. At around this time, the two Force Indias collided with each other again prompting the deployment of the Virtual Safety Car.

Racing resumed on Lap 33 as Hamilton led Vettel, the two clear fighters for the top contention at the front. Although Vettel had an outside chance to pass the Mercedes driver at the chicane on Lap 33, Hamilton kept fighting at the very front.

1 lap later, on Lap 34, Vettel, now barely half a second behind Hamilton dived into the inside in an attempt to pass Hamilton only to see the Briton fightback and resist the overtake. If this moment was a master-class in defensive driving, then Raikkonen's pass over Ricciardo and Bottas during the same lap was epic.

Eventually, Hamilton would keep his tail in the front of Ferrari's Vettel as Mercedes reigned supreme on an action-packed weekend.

Senna aces an epic duel at Spa-Francorchamps, 1985

Grand Prix of Belgium
Senna's first-ever race win at Spa-Francorchamps came in 1985

The first race that Ayrton Senna won in his career came at Estoril, at the Portuguese Grand Prix. His second win, however, would come after a few Grands Prix as he'd emerge victorious at the emphatic 1985 Belgian Grand Prix.

Driving his Lotus Renault in only his second year at the pinnacle of motor-racing, Ayrton Senna clinched a vital career win in what would be a 43-lap contest.

A visibly-quicker car than the two Williams and Ferraris, Senna was able to attack right at the start, ever since beginning second on the grid behind pole-sitter Alain Prost (driving a McLaren).

Inside the opening laps, Ayrton Senna defended brilliantly from Brazilian driver Nelson Piquet Sr. whose Brabham spun around the corner.

This effectively left the fighting duo of Prost and Senna contesting for the top step of the podium from the initial stages of the competition. He'd soon pass 'The Professor' Prost and would also keep the charging Alboreto and Johansson at bay. In between, Mansell, who'd try and have a go at Senna would understand the dominant pace of the Lotus driver and found himself to be no match to the Brazilian.

In the latter half of the contest, Senna upped his game tremendously under rains and gave no chance whatsoever to Prost who failed to mount a comeback and fell behind the two Williams.

In winning his maiden triumph at Spa-Francorchamps, Ayrton Senna tasted the champagne from the top step of the podium; a true great of the sport relishing a great track in the end.

The Iceman keeps his cool to win at Spa, 2009

F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Race
The 2009 win at Spa-Francorchamps was Kimi's last win in a Ferrari car

He might be called and celebrated as the Iceman but out here in the Belgian wilderness, Kimi is hailed as the 'King of Spa.'

Having picked up some of his most famous wins at the Belgian Grand Prix, Kimi's worked hard to cement that unflappable reputation and one of the best pieces of evidence of his prowess in the 44-lap contest came in 2009.

Raikkonen, then, aged 28, was driving in his final year for Ferrari, before he'd be shown the door for an in-coming Fernando Alonso. So it was emphatic by all counts that the only win that Kimi would pick would come at a track he personally hails as his 'favourite.'

The most standout moment for Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari's last world champion came in the form of a stellar move over Sahara Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella at a corner that's called not only the most glamorous but also the most challenging positions on any race track.

Aided by a visibly balanced machine, Raikkonen, then in his Ferrari F-60, got the better of the holder of track position- Fisichella- at around Eu Rouge to put himself up into first at Spa.

From thereon, Fisichella would have no realistic chance of bouncing back to reclaim the lead from Kimi, who would chip away to an easy win. But while Raikkonen was stellar in his speed all weekend and deserved to win, having passed Hamilton's McLaren in the mid-stages, it cannot be denied that it was the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) advantage that earned the Finn the track position.

Hakkinen proves a point to Schumacher, 2000

Belgian Grand Prix
Mika won from the pole at Spa in 2000

The greatest thing about Formula 1 isn't just the glamorous and picturesque settings and the magnanimous world titles. Rather, the greatest thing about the sport is the spectacle of ostentatious and thrilling overtakes, a great example of which was served back in the 2000 Belgian Grand Prix, one of the fanciest racing fests on the roster.

About 18 years ago with both Schumacher and Hakkinen being at their peak, the latter demonstrated an awe-inspiring moment, pulling ahead of track-leader Schumacher who had seemed ever-certain to win the Grand Prix.

What transpired on Lap 41, right at the fighting stages, a few laps before the checkered flag was a move that's been hailed by both contemporary and past F1 drivers as being amongst the most daring feats attained in the annals of the sport.

In reversing the tide on a cloudy Sunday, the ice-cool Finn exulted as a result of a ballsy manoeuvre, going past the screechingly-fast Ferrari of Michael Schumacher, his arch-rival, on Lap 41.

But what was great about Hakkinen's feat was that instead of diving into the outside (clearly, the more spacious part of the track) of the ten track-leader, Michael Schumacher, the Finn dived into the inside and stormed his way through to gain the lead of the race.

A couple of laps before the checkered flag, Mika's pacy McLaren jumped into the lead and blasted past the finish line amid awe-struck fans, with perhaps Schumacher being one among them, as admitted in the aftermath of a fantastic racing weekend at Spa.

Moreover, what was great about Hakkinen's 2000 triumph was that despite having taken the pole, he'd spun around and fallen further behind in the pack and would fight his way through, ultimately winning one of his most incredible wins.

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Edited by Jilin Cherian
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