Spa is where drivers can revive their F1 season

Spa is where drivers can revive their F1 season
Toro Rosso Formula One driver Ricciardo drives during the first practice session of the Belgian F1 Grand Prix in Spa Francorchamps.

There is probably no better location for the 2013 Formula One World Championship to resume after its mid-season layoff, than with the Belgian Grand Prix at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

The 7km track, the longest lap on the F1 calendar, is a true classic; twisting and swooping along the top of the Ardennes mountains like a 300kmh roller coaster. It is little wonder that it is universally regarded as a fan and drivers' favourite. Even the normally monosyllabic Finn, Kimi Raikkonen, can be persuaded to wax lyrical about Spa.

"For me it is the greatest racing circuit in the world and it has been my favourite place since my first-ever visit in 2000 with Formula Renault," he says. "It's great to go racing with a modern car at a proper circuit which has such a great tradition. You can't get the same kind of feeling anywhere else."

The Spa circuit is, along with Monza, the oldest on the calendar. The first time Spa hosted a Grand Prix was in 1925, when the race was won by Antonio Ascari driving an Alfa Romeo for a team managed by the young Enzo Ferrari.

The Belgian GP often springs surprises. Last year, Jenson Button reversed a dip in mid-season form to win for McLaren from Sebastian Vettel and Raikkonen.

In 2009, Giancarlo Fisichella amazed everyone with an unexpected pole position for Force India. He was only edged out of victory by a determined Raikkonen, on his way to scoring his fourth win at the track and his last win for the Ferrari team.

Spa is also proof that, beneath its hard shell of commercialism, F1 has a soul. Due perhaps to its relative isolation in the Ardennes, it has never generated significant numbers of the lucrative corporate hospitality clients of other venues.

That in turn has meant that the track has never earned the revenues that other grands prix generate and in 2003 and 2006, financial issues meant that the classic venue was absent from the F1 calendar altogether. Spa, however, returned, not because of profits, but because the teams want it and it remains the ultimate driver's challenge.

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