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Lewis Hamilton shredding across the Spa-Francorchamps asphalt | © Nic Redhead/Flickr
Lewis Hamilton shredding across the Spa-Francorchamps asphalt | © Nic Redhead/Flickr
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Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix 2016: What To Expect

Picture of Nana Van De Poel
Updated: 30 August 2016
Belgium’s elevated Spa region will again play host to revving engines the last weekend of August as Formula 1 teams throw down in the picturesque area to compete in the 2016 Grand Prix. Here’s what to expect at the notoriously challenging track and racer favorite.

From the 26th until the 28th of August, the longest track of the Formula 1 circuit will have the best drivers in the world shredding its asphalt during practice runs, qualifiers and, on Sunday, the Grand Prix of 44 laps.

The Spa-Francorchamps track surrounded by towering pines | © <a href="" target="_blank">nick@/Flickr</a>

The Spa-Francorchamps circuit, surrounded by towering pines | © nick@/Flickr

Ultimate skill test

It’s easy to see why crowds usually go wild at the Spa-Francorchamps races, and why drivers look forward to the occasion all season long. The historic race, though shortened after its return from a 12-year hiatus in 1983, remains a true test of driver skill to this day. Only six champions have managed to win it more than twice, with the record of a whopping seven victories held by Michael Schumacher. Last year, Spa’s elite reputation was strengthened further with the track being the first to have the Formula 1 start procedure altered to remove as many driver aids as possible in an attempt to refocus on human skill.

The Belgian Formula 1 track with its sharp turns is one of the most challenging in the entire circuit | © Rob Oo/Flickr

The Belgian Formula 1 track, with its sharp turns, is one of the most challenging in the entire circuit | © Rob Oo/Flickr

Eau Rouge rollercoaster

The notorious technical challenges that the Spa course presents lie in its many straight lines alternated with sharp turns. The 2016 track will again encompass the famed Eau Rouge corner – named after the iron-colored stream it crosses – a high-speed endeavor in which drivers are required to navigate the long turn before shooting upwards into Spa’s pine woods. The Eau Rouge is widely considered one of the most challenging sections in all of Formula 1 racing, one that both terrifies and delights drivers with a sensation felt throughout the entire body.

One car's progression through the infamous Eau Rouge turn | © Joe Hayhurst/Flickr

One car’s progression through the infamous Eau Rouge turn | © Joe Hayhurst/Flickr

Glorious nature

The body-shaking maneuvers aren’t the only characteristics enamoring thrill-seeking drivers in Spa, however, as the track winds through one scenic landscape after another. Along with Belgium’s fickle weather Gods, who might decide to transform the asphalt into a slippery slope at any time, Spa’s outstretched forests lend the race an exceptionally earthy quality. And though Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg can’t very well stop their car to get out and smell the pine trees, their fans can and do. Add to that the knowledge that this area was a beloved retreat among 19th century aristocracy because of the healing qualities of its spring waters (Spa inspiring the now-ubiquitous English word), and grasping onto the opportunity of the Grand Prix as a weekend getaway becomes all the more alluring.

Backdrop to the racing is always Spa's elegant pines | © ph-stop/Flickr

The backdrop to the race is always Spa’s elegant pines | © ph-stop/Flickr

Resting your head and filling your tummy

For those who prefer to smell the burning rubber and be as close to the action as possible, the modern Hotel de la Source actually overlooks the racetrack. A kilometer further down the road, in the heart of Francorchamps village, another ideal starting point to explore the rest of the castle-dotted region is Li Magnon, with fully equipped apartments. For dinner you’ll want to head into the city of Spa itself, where many wonderful restaurants such as La Tonnellerie and L’Art de Vivre take advantage of their gorgeous surroundings by adding cozy terraces to the mix.