Michael Schumacher could clinch his seventh world championship title at Spa-Francorchamps – a circuit on which the German has achieved several milestones in his F1 career.
By Kieran Fourie
Michael Schumacher could clinch his seventh world championship title at Spa-Francorchamps, a circuit on which the German has achieved several milestones in his F1 career.
Spa is one of the most demanding, and arguably the greatest, F1 circuit in the world, and F1 enthusiasts are excited that the Belgian Grand Prix is returning to the F1 calendar after a year's break.
The circuit includes a bend widely regarded as the toughest on any race track in the world – Eau Rouge-Raidillon is a rollercoaster left-right-left sweep that is taken at over 300 km/h as it plunges into the bottom of a valley and up the other side.
It is a true test of driving ability and courage as only the very bravest take it flat out. Unfortunately, some of the track’s challenges have been neutered (for example, by incorporating the bus stop chicane) due to the sheer capabilities of the modern Grand Prix cars, which the sport's bosses are continually attempting to slow down for safety reasons.
Schumacher made his début at Spa Francorchamps in 1991, where he qualified a Jordan-Ford in seventh place. One year later he recorded his first Grand Prix victory at the circuit, with Benetton-Ford.
"Spa has always been special for me," the German said. "I am very happy to see the Belgian Grand Prix back on the calendar. This race seems to be linked to my career in some way. I have enjoyed some fantastic moments here and so I can only express my delight that I can race on the track again. Spa preserves the features of the old style circuits, ones that are very different from modern tracks. Even if today's single-seaters have made the circuit a little easier, it is still a challenge. Driving the perfect line here, especially in some stretches, is just thrilling. It is not coincidental that generations of drivers have raved about Eau Rouge."
McLaren-Mercedes driver David Coulthard is not expecting his team to challenge Ferrari at Spa this year, leaving no one to stop Michael from winning his seventh world championship title.
Even considering Spa's changeable weather conditions, it is difficult to imagine Schumacher not winning this weekend. But if it does rain, which it often does at Spa, Michael's advantage will be magnified.
Schumacher's only challenger in the drivers' championship,
team-mate Rubens Barrichello, is the only driver who has a mathematical chance of winning the title. Even if Michael does not win he will still be champion as long as he scores two more points than Barrichello.
At the last race in Hungary, McLaren-Mercedes made an error with their tyre choice, which upset the momentum the Woking-based team had built up after being Ferrari's closest rival at the German and British Grands Prix.
That means Ferrari should be in a league of its own at Spa, with BAR, Williams and McLaren battling each other behind them.