Belgian GP: Preview of the race at Spa, arguably F1's best track
Spa. Marvellous, moody, magnificent.
The 4.3 miles of race track that cascade around the Ardennes forests in eastern Belgium have a special place in motor racing history. Put simply, they form arguably the best race track on the planet.
Perhaps Suzuka in Japan has supplanted it as a grand prix circuit now that aerodynamics have neutered some of the corners that make Spa great. But there is still nothing quite like this place.
"It feels like you're going somewhere," Mark Webber once said of it, which is no surprise given what is now a permanent race track is made up of what were once normal roads.
Except 'normal' is completely the wrong word for it.
Unlike so many modern tracks, built as they usually are on featureless wasteland with any elevation change often artificial, Spa follows the contours of the mountains that host it.
As such, it is a link to the very soul of Formula 1, which emerged in 1950 as a development of European road racing in the first half of the century.
That was the point of it, at the beginning. Take the fastest cars possible onto circuits made of ordinary roads, and test them and their drivers to their limits.
At Bahrain or Shanghai, the new Hockenheim or Abu Dhabi, this lineage is almost invisible. At Spa, it's tangible.
Originally, it was even more extraordinary than it is now. A ludicrously fast eight miles that was surpassed only by the Nurburgring Nordschleife - not far away in what are essentially the same mountains and forests - as a challenge for man and machine.
So fast and dangerous was the old Spa that its abandonment on safety grounds came in 1970, six years before the Nurburgring was deemed too dangerous.
The Belgian Grand Prix spent 13 years at unloved Nivelles and Zolder before a shortened and re-shaped Spa hosted the race again in 1983.
The circuit has remained essentially unchanged since. The 'new' Spa is half of the original track, including the famous 'Eau Rouge' and 'Blanchimont' corners, with a new section that cuts it in half but still retains its character.
These days, Eau Rouge/Raidillon is still an incredible rollercoaster ride of a challenge, but it's 'easy flat' in most conditions in a modern F1 car.
That said, 'easy' is another unsuitable word for a corner that features a downhill left, a flick right through a compression, a hill so steep you can barely walk up it, and culminates in a left over a crest, all taken at close to 190mph.
Nevertheless, its place as Spa's greatest corner has been taken by Pouhon - a super-fast, downhill double-left-hander in the new section.
Head out there of a morning and if it's sunny, the mountain mists still hang in the pines. If it's not, well, it is Spa, so you would have expected some rain.
Stand on the entry, taken north of 150mph, and be in awe of arguably the most evocative circuit in F1.
The circuit map
The original Eau Rouge
And how it is today
What Eau Rouge has done to drivers
How, exactly, did you do that?
Fangio's fandango in Spa
When Ferrari went back in time
Vandoorne continues legacy
A day of carnage, but survival
A beautiful first
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