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The Belgian GP is live on 5 live, 5 live sports extra and the BBC Sport website

“It’s a place where you really feel on the limit and that’s pretty awesome in an F1 car.”

That was Lewis Hamilton’s take on the Belgian Grand Prix in 2011. Back then, he was entering his final years with McLaren and only one championship trophy nestled in the cabinet.

As the summer break draws to a close and the second half of the season begins, the Briton holds a 24-point lead over rival Sebastian Vettel and has a fingertip on a fifth world title.

One of the most historic circuits on the calendar, the majestic Spa-Francorchamps is the perfect setting for battle to reconvene.

Long straights mixed with the challenge of fast, sweeping corners, this track located in a valley of the Ardennes mountains is as picturesque as a wish-you-where-here postcard, yet as brutal a test as any Formula 1 driver will face.

Bye bye Fernando: The big news over the summer – along with Daniel Ricciardo’s shock switch to Renault – was the announcement Fernando Alonso is bowing out of F1 at the end of the season after 17 years. The Spaniard has never tasted victory in Belgium – his highest position to date was runner-up in 2005 and 2013

One year ago the roles were reserved between Hamilton and Vettel as the title battle rocked up in Belgium, with the German flying high with a 14-point advantage after victory in Hungary.

But it was the Mercedes man who seemed most recharged after the holiday recess. Equalling Michael Schumacher’s career record of 68 pole positions was the first strike, then a tense afternoon of cat-and-mouse on race day ended in a Hamilton win.

That victory was the first of three in a row for Hamilton

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen could be one to keep an eye on after five consecutive podium finishes since the French Grand Prix in June. He also has the honour of being joint third in the all-time winners’ list at Spa, with four victories.

Is it time for the Iceman to step in and shake up a two-horse championship race?

There was seldom a circuit Michael Schumacher didn’t dominate at and Spa was no exception. The seven-time world champion still holds the record in Belgium, with Brazilian Ayrton Senna next on the list with five wins

Flashback quiz

One of the most memorable F1 races ever – the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix – is 20 years old this month. You can read all about the rain-soaked carnage, pile-ups and bust-ups of that eventful day here.

Out of the 22 drivers who started that day, only eight were classified finishers.

We want you to name those drivers.

There are two minutes on the clock to get guessing on this one.

Who finished the Belgian GP in 1998?

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Previously in F1: Round 12 – Hungary

It’s raining Mercedes: The wet weather meant only one thing for qualifying: Lewis Hamilton on pole position and a Silver Arrows front-row lockout. Ferrari may have dominated the earlier practice session in the hot and dry conditions but when the heavens opened, there was only one team in it
Summer break high: A tense strategic battle was eventually won by pole sitter Lewis Hamilton, extending his lead in the championship to 24 points over rival Sebastian Vettel. Ferrari’s delayed pit stop for Vettel, Valtteri Bottas’ misjudged defending and Max Verstappen’s expletive-laden radio rant ensured another entertaining Hungarian GP

The track

Back pocket facts

  • Belgian Antoine-Joseph “Adolphe” Sax invented the saxophone in the early 1840s. Although the popular instrument didn’t immediately impress his peers, the musician also went onto to create the saxotromba, saxhorn and saxtuba.
  • The Smurfs hail from Belgium. Comics artist Peyo came up with the original concept in 1958 after he couldn’t remember the word for salt, so instead jokingly referred to it as “schtroumpf.” “Les Schtroumpfs” was translated to “The Smurfs” for the American audience.
  • Belgium’s dense road network is visible from space. The glowing highways have near-total streetlight coverage, with around 2.2 million bulbs illuminating the roads.
  • The highest point in Belgium is smaller than the world’s tallest building. The Signal de Botrange on the High Fens plateau is 694 metres high, 134 metres shorter than the tallest building in the world – Dubai’s Burj Khalifa – which stands at an impressive 828 metres.

Holiday social

He crashed, shortly after this picture was taken

How to follow on BBC Sport

BBC Sport has live coverage of all the season’s races on BBC Radio 5 live and BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, plus live online commentary on the BBC Sport website and mobile app – including audience interaction, expert analysis, debate, voting, features, interviews and video content.

All times BST and are subject to change at short notice.

Belgian Grand Prix coverage details
Date Session Time Radio coverage Online text commentary
Thursday, 23 August Preview & podcast 20:00-21:00 BBC Radio 5 live
Friday, 24 August First practice 09:55-11:35 BBC Radio 5 live sports extra BBC Sport Online
Second practice 13:55-15:35 BBC Sport Online
Saturday, 25 August Third practice 10:55-12:05 BBC Radio 5 live sports extra BBC Sport Online
Qualifying 13:55-15:05 BBC Sport Online
Podcast 5 live online BBC Sport Online
Sunday, 26 August Race 14:10 BBC Radio 5 live BBC Sport Online
Review podcast 5 live online BBC Sport Online

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