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Belgian Grand Prix: Drivers rev up for Spa-Francorchamps race on Sunday
The mythical track of Spa-Francorchamps in the Belgian Ardennes hosts the highly-anticipated 2022 Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Drivers jetted into Liège Airport on Wednesday evening to start practice and qualifying sessions ahead of the 13th race of the Formula One season (George Russell greeted by Belgian fans below).
The high-octane sporting event resumes after the traditional summer break. It’s a critical race for constructors, drivers and the Belgian hosts who are confronting rumours that the historic circuit could be dropped from the next Formula One calendar.
With last year's controversial edition a near washout (pictured below), Spa-Francorchamps is under pressure to deliver a grand prix worthy of the name. The weather forecast is currently looking favourable with dry conditions predicted for the track on Sunday at least. Set deep in the Ardennes forest, its notorious micro-climate often results in perverse downpours.
In the hope that the all-important contract will be renewed for 2023 – older historic tracks are threatened by the arrival of new countries – Spa is promising more entertainment for all spectators.
So far, 2022 has already proved to be a thriller roller coaster season with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen currently enjoying a solid 80 point lead in the driver championship. With nine races left to go, chasing the Dutch reigning champion is Monaco’s Charles Leclerc. He’ll be hoping to raise the spirits of his Ferrari team, beset by driver as well as team strategy errors since the start of the season.
Although its first edition dates from 1912, the Belgian Grand Prix has featured 66 times in the F1 world championship, which started in 1950. The Ardennes track in Liège province is a firm favourite for drivers and fans, reputed to be the world’s most challenging track.
This is because it is fast, featuring long straights, sweeping corners and a hairpin bend, the mythical downhill Eau Rouge U-turn into the Raidillon hill (main image). It’s Spa’s most famous and tricky corner, requiring supreme control and expertise from drivers.
Not surprisingly, the circuit is dangerous with a number of drivers losing their lives or suffering serious injury over the years. Safety features have been introduced, including the shortening of its track. But when combined with fickle weather, Spa remains one of the most exhilarating rides on the Formula One calendar.
When the start lights go out at 15.00 on Sunday, the stakes could not be higher for the future of Belgium’s grand prix.
Belgian Grand Prix
Photos: main image © Belga/Dirk Waem; Mercedes driver George Russell with fans at Liège airport © Anne Bruyère