Triple ton for Schumi at Spa

2012-08-30 08:24

LONDON - Michael Schumacher is back in his Belgian "living room" - the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. - for his 300th F1 Grand Prix.

Only one other driver, Schumacher's former Ferrari team mate Rubens Barrichello, has reached that number in F1 and the seven-times World champion could not have chosen a more special place for it.

Belgium was where Schumacher made an eye-catching debut in 1991, qualifying seventh as a little-known stand-in with the Jordan team, and where, with Benetton in 1992, he took the first of his record 91 wins.

It's the longest track in Formula 1 and sweeps through the Ardennes forest; it's where Schumacher won his last championship in 2004 with Ferrari. It's where he's won six GP's, more than any other F1 driver.

Schumacher said: "Spa is like my living room. It's clearly the world's No.1 track. It's uncanny how I always seem to have special moments there... the fact that I will also take part in my 300th GP at Spa was somehow almost inevitable."


Schumacher is 12th overall in the current standings and a massive 135 points behind 2012 season leader Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.

The definition of a start has long been open to debate, with some excluding the 1976 German GP from Niki Lauda's career tally because the race started afresh and without him after his near-fatal crash.

The badly burned triple champion's response to being informed he had not officially started the race has gone down in F1 folklore: "Oh yes? So what happened to my ear?"

Schumacher did not start the 1996 French GP, despite qualifying on pole, because his Ferrari engine failed on the formation lap. He crashed during the 1999 British GP, breaking a leg, before the re-start.

Mercedes, which took a breakthrough win in China with Nico Rosberg in April 2012 and celebrated Schumacher's return to the podium for the first time since 2006, will hope to make it a weekend to remember even if the team is far from race favourite.

Spa is just about every F1 driver's top track with its fast-flowing layout and sweeping plunge through Eau Rouge. It's no place for the faint-hearted, rewarding the fearless as the list of winners testifies. Only two drivers in the last 25 years have not gone on to win titles or been champions already.

Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen still holds the lap record, set with McLaren in 2004, and his most recent GP win was at Spa with Ferrari in 2009 before he left F1 for two years to participate in the World Rally championship.


Raikkonen, fifth overall and 48 points behind Alonso, has won four times in Belgium, including a hat trick 2004-07 (no race in '06). He has the best record at Spa over the last 10 years.

After finishing second in Hungary, Raikkonen will fancy his chances of a first win with his new team, particularly if rain stays away.

Raikkonen said: "Of course, we will do our very best to win this race. I have stood in the middle of the podium a few times and I want to be there again. For me it is the greatest racing circuit in the world. It is my favourite place."

Lotus technical director James Allison hoped the circuit would play to the strengths of his E20 cars. "If it's dry Spa fits the category of circuit at which we are most confident, so all of us are excited to be going there. If it's a wet it's a much more open question; for all teams, not just for us."

Ferrari and McLaren have traditionally gone well at Spa while Red Bull's double champion Sebastian Vettel won in 2011 from pole.

Alonso (pushing for a third title and a record-equalling 24th consecutive race in the points), Red Bull's Mark Webber and McLaren's Jenson Button have never won at Spa and all will be pushing hard to add the classic trophy to their collections as the season enters its decisive phase.

Stay with Wheels24 for the 2012 Belgian F1 weekend.