Where are the best and worst grid positions to start the Belgian Grand Prix from? Here are which grid slots have had favourable, and not so favourable, fortunes at Spa-Francorchamps!
THE STATS IN BRIEF:
- Polesitter has won 4 of last 5 Belgian races
- No podium for 3rd since 2012, no win since 1998
- 4th has never won
- Most DNFs for 5th
- Furthest back win from 16th
- 20th has never scored
The polesitter has gone on to win the Belgian Grand Prix at eighteen of the 51 events which have been held here, giving a pole to win conversion rate of 35%. Four of the last five Spa races have been won from pole, while five of the last nine have been won from the front. Pole position is the grid slot which has gone the longest without a DNF, with Juan Pablo Montoya being the last polesitter to have retired from this track back in 2005. Since then, the polesitter has finished on the podium in every race at the circuit.
LUCKY GRID POSITIONS:
In recent years, we’ve seen the driver in second being more likely to lead by the fourth corner thanks to the layout of the track. After the cars have gone through Eau Rouge and up the Radillion section of track, they come to the Kemmel Straight, where slipstreaming can be highly effective. Last season, Sebastian Vettel overtook Lewis Hamilton for the lead at the end of the Kemmel Straight on the first lap, just seconds before the Safety Car was called. Vettel attempted the same thing for the lead in the previous season twice, at the start and after a Safety Car restart, but moved to the outside and couldn’t get by the Mercedes.
It’s difficult to know whether grid position eight at Spa is lucky or unlucky. On one hand, the driver starting here has retired from both of the last two races at the track, and has suffered five DNFs in the last eight races. On the other hand, only pole position and third on the grid have had more points-scoring races at the track, while only pole has finished in the top ten more times than this grid slot. There have been ten occasions where the driver starting here has finished on the podium, most recently Sebastian Vettel in 2009.
The driver starting from thirteenth at Spa has scored six times in the last eight races, and Jenson Button took a podium finish having started from here in 2011. The position has given three podium finishes in total, additionally providing third place finishes for Andrea de Cesaris in 1987 and for Martin Brundle in 1995. Furthermore, in the last 22 years, the driver starting here has recorded a DNF only twice. They were for Giancarlo Fisichella in 2005 and Fernando Alonso in 2009.
The sixteenth grid slot is the one which holds the record for the furthest back win at this circuit. Michael Schumacher took victory for Benetton from this slot back in 1995. The grid slot may have only scored in the Belgian Grand Prix four times since then, but two of those occasions have been in the last four races.
UNLUCKY GRID POSITIONS:
The last driver to start from third at Spa and finish on the podium was Kimi Raikkonen in 2012. While there have been no non-finishes from this grid slot in the last six seasons, the driver starting here has finished lower than fourth in all six years. The last driver to start from third and win the Belgian Grand Prix was Damon Hill, when he famously took the Jordan team’s first victory in 1998.
In the 51 races at Spa, the driver starting from fourth has never recorded a victory. There have been ten podium finishes from this position, including six runner-up finishes, but never a win. The last driver to score a podium finish from fourth on the grid was Fernando Alonso, who finished second in 2005. On the plus side, the driver starting here has at least scored points in all of the last six Belgian races.
The fifth grid position at Spa has suffered more DNFs than any other. There have been a total of 25 DNFs from fifth on the grid, plus a disqualification for Mika Hakkinen following a fuel irregularity in 1997, costing him a podium finish. The recent history of this grid slot is very inconsistent. While Romain Grosjean finished seventh having started fifth last year, before that the grid slot saw four DNFs in six seasons, interspersed by two top three finishes for Daniel Ricciardo, including a win in 2014. In the eleven races at the track between 1968 and 1992, Nigel Mansell in 1986 was the only driver not to record a DNF having started here – and he won the race!
The driver starting from eighteenth at the Belgian Grand Prix hasretired from each of the last two races here. In the last 33 races at the track, Nico Hulkenberg and Max Verstappen are the only drivers to have scored here, having done so in consecutive years (2014 and 2015). Before them, Carel Godin de Beaufort was the only other driver to have scored from eighteenth on the grid, taking a sixth place finish for Porsche in 1963.
Of the top twenty grid slots at the Spa Francorchamps circuit, twentieth is the only one to have never scored a point at the track; nor has it ever recorded a top ten finish. Top ten finishes have come from 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 24th and 25th on the grid, but never from twentieth. The best finish from this grid slot was an eleventh place for Narain Karthikeyan in the 2005 race.
Nicky Haldenby is a freelance writer from Scarborough, England. After graduating from the University of Hull in 2015 with a First Class honours degree in English Language and Literature, Nicky, a lifelong fan of Formula 1, founded the Lights Out F1 Blog in 2016. Now in its fourth season, the blog has become a firm fan-favourite, delving deep into the sport’s history books and lifting the cover on unusual F1 statistics. Nicky also writes at F1Destinations, and sister site GPDestinations, where he shares regular race previews and articles focussed around the latest in Formula 1 calendar and venue news. In 2017 and 2018, he wrote for Badger GP. Nicky can also be heard regularly as a guest on various Formula 1 radio shows and podcasts.