August 26th, 2014 (F1Plus / Rosie Baillie) - As you drive in through the Ardennes Forest you catch the occasional glimpse of Spa-Francorchamps through the trees.
You can see patches of asphalt and the bright red and yellow kerbing. Your excitement levels begin to rise and then you see it, Raidillon.
Eau Rouge and Raidillon are one of the most famous and most loved parts of a race track in the world.
How it is not the eighth wonder of the world I’m not sure because it is breath-taking. (I mean that figuratively and literally, you try walking up it.)
It is so much steeper than TV would have you believe and when you stand trackside you can’t quite believe that a Formula One car can get up it, let alone flat out. Of course they can, they’re powerful machines, but it doesn’t seem like it should be possible.
As they climb up Raidillon the brow of the hill is blind, which for a regular person is a pretty terrifying thought but for a racing driver it’s part and parcel of the job.
After all the on-track action was finished on Friday I walked the circuit and it certainly is not as flat as TV makes it look, my legs can testify for that. The drop down from Bruxelles to Pouhon is bigger than I thought it was.
Many of the drivers say Spa-Francorchamps is their favourite track and it’s no wonder. It’s a great track and there’s something about a race track set in a dense forest that’s quite magical.
When you’re on the circuit you feel like you could be anywhere in the world. In fact, it feels like nothing else in the world even exists. The scenery is so beautiful, but I can’t imagine the drivers have a whole lot of time to take that in while navigating La Source for example.
Spa-Francorchamps made it’s Grand Prix debut back in 1925 and has changed a lot since then.
The earlier versions of the circuit had very little safety precautions which resulted in a number of fatalities and the track gained a reputation for being deadly. The 1969 Belgian Grand Prix was boycotted when the circuit owners didn’t make Jackie Stewart’s suggested safety changes.
When you drive into the circuit now you come in on the roads which formed part of the old track, which gives you an insight into how dangerous the old track was. It’s not hard to understand how so many people died or how Stewart ended up in a farmhouse basement in 1966.
Rumours usually crop up once a year that Spa-Francorchamps will drop off the calendar or take place on alternate years but it would be a crying shame to lose a beautiful circuit steeped in so much history.
If you ever have the chance to go to the Belgian Grand Prix, I implore you to do it.