The original Spa track was -- like the original Nürburgring nearby -- a long track through the country roads of 8.7 miles in length.
Situated in the forest of the Ardennes where the Battle of the Bulge was fought in World War II, it has an old-time Formula 1 racing atmosphere, with the old village of Francorchamps and the rolling hills and trees of the landscape.
Fortunately, unlike the old Nürburgring - which was a narrow, windy track through hills and beyond recuperation when safety became of prime importance - the Spa track could be modernized. It was drastically shortened, cutting off the use of some of the dangerous roads, and it also used part of the public highways and was therefore fairly wide by comparison.
Today, the 7.0-kilometer track, inaugurated in 1979, is nevertheless the longest circuit in the series. It has the most ferocious corner up a hill, called the Eau Rouge, which from certain vantage points looks almost vertical.
''Eau Rouge is a very special part of the track, the spectators love going to watch the cars there, and I would encourage anyone to see it live once in their lives -- it's mind-blowing,'' said Mark Webber, a driver at the Red Bull team. ''It's one of the classic tracks where you feel like an F1 car belongs on the circuit.''
The track has been host to the Belgian Grand Prix of the current Formula 1 championship 44 times since the inaugural race in 1950, the circuit at Nivelles holding the race twice, and Zolder 10 times. In the 1960s the track was featured in the film ''Grand Prix,'' directed by John Frankenheimer, along with Monaco and Monza.
And the race stands as one of the classics with Monza and Monaco, and the French Grand Prix and the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
It is also one of the most technical and dangerous tracks, which requires the most courage to drive, even if it has become safer and easier in recent years.
As a result, usually only the greatest drivers have won the race, several of them many times. Michael Schumacher has won a record six times, Kimi Raikkonen, Ayrton Senna and Jim Clark won it four times, and Juan Manuel Fangio won it three times.
For Schumacher, the race has even more significance, as it has been the site of many milestones in his career. It was at Spa in 1991 that he made his stunning debut in Formula 1, when he was hired to replace another driver at the last minute.
Schumacher, who came from nearby Kerpen, Germany, scored seventh spot on the grid during qualifying, but his car broke down in the race. He was immediately snapped up for the next race, in Monza, by the Benetton team, where he would win his first race in Formula One the following year -- at Spa.
In 2012 Schumacher celebrated his 300th race in Formula 1 at Spa.
''Spa is like my living room,'' he said. ''For me, it's clearly the No.1 racetrack in the world. It's uncanny how I always seem to have special moments there -- my debut, my first win, a world championship victory and many great races.''
The race has been the scene of many historic moments, including the biggest pileup in Formula One history in 1998, when 13 cars crashed into each other on the first corner after the start on a rainy day.
Rain is part of the history of the race at Spa, as the weather is unpredictable in the region, and there is a microclimate around the circuit so that sometimes it rains in one part of the circuit and is dry in another.
It was at Spa in 1994 that Rubens Barrichello scored his first pole position in the Jordan car, beating all the top teams as he took to the drying track at just the right moment.
It was the scene in 2000 of one of the most memorable overtaking maneuvers, when Schumacher was leading in his Ferrari and Mika Hakkinen was second in a McLaren and had been trying to pass Schumacher for several laps. When the two drivers approached to lap the trailing car of Ricardo Zonta, after Eau Rouge, and Schumacher took Zonta on the outside, Hakkinen dived in on the inside of Zonta without Schumacher's knowing.
With the three cars abreast, Hakkinen passed both cars at just three laps from the end of the race, and he won.