The 2000 Belgian GP was quite a race. At half-distance it looked like being yet another glorious Spa victory for Schumacher, after rival Mika Hakkinen had thrown away the lead for the third time in two years. Instead, the fortunes of the leading contenders swapped around dramatically.
The race started on a wet track with one lap behind the safety car. Given that F1 uses single-file restarts, this was a huge advantage for pole man Hakkinen, who was able to get the jump on everyone and take full advantage of a clear run into La Source. Starting fourth, it took Schumacher five laps to pass Jenson Button's Williams and Jarno Trulli's Jordan to take second.
When the track began to dry, Schumacher was among the first to stop for slicks, while Hakkinen stayed out one more lap and found his lead reduced. Schumacher soon began to catch Hakkinen, and when Mika tried to respond, he spun on a wet curb on an unlucky lap 13, losing exactly 10 seconds.
Schumacher pitted at half-distance, taking on enough fuel to get to the end. The extra weight cost him pace on the track, and meant that his tires had to last a long time. By pitting five laps later, Hakkinen was ultimately in better shape.
Mika was now 5.8sec behind, compared with 11.5s before the stops (most of that was gained in the pits and on his out lap). But the whole complexion of the race had changed; instead of dropping back again, Mika was charging. By lap 30 of the 44-lap race, the gap was 3.5sec, and by lap 35, it was 1.1sec.
On lap 37, Mika was right on the Ferrari's tail. He now had seven laps in which to get past. And after finding his way rudely blocked on lap 40, he did it in dramatic style on the next lap as they lapped Ricardo Zonta, the two leaders diving past on either side of the BAR driver.
The McLaren was simply the faster car by the time conditions had dried and stabilized. Mika made it home safely in front to register one of his most famous wins, while Schumacher came in for huge criticism after his clumsy intimidatory squeeze of Mika on lap 40. However Mika chose not to make his own feelings public – confining himself to a quiet word in Michael's ear in parc ferme. Classy...
Had Lewis Hamilton lost the 2008 World Championship to Felipe Massa, many would have looked back to that year's Belgian GP as the event that tipped the balance – somewhat controversially – in the Brazilian's favor. Fortunately, Lewis won the title on the last lap of the last race at Interlagos, and he could put the Spa frustration behind him.
Rain at midday left the circuit very wet but, as the cars took to the grid, it had dried sufficiently for everyone to take the start on regular grooved Bridgestone tires. From pole, Hamilton's McLaren emerged from La Source in front.
Meanwhile, Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was able to drag past teammate Massa to claim second on the run out of Eau Rouge. The Finn then moved into the lead when Hamilton spun on the exit of the hairpin at the start of the second lap. Lewis quickly resumed, having lost only one place, but through the remainder of that first stint, the reigning champion's Ferrari gradually edged away, and for most of the race he remained just out of his rival's reach.
Everything began to change when rain came in the last three laps with the cars still on slicks. Hamilton closed the gap, and on lap 42 he fought his way past Kimi, as the pair twice made contact. Lewis cut the Bus Stop chicane and – briefly – let Kimi back past on the run to La Source, so as not to be seen to have gained an advantage. However, he then ducked past the Ferrari again and outbraked him.
On the penultimate lap, the rain really came down hard. Lewis went off while lapping a Williams, but then just seconds later Raikkonen had a moment of his own, and Lewis regained the lead. Later in the lap Kimi crashed heavily, leaving Lewis to crawl round that wet final lap to claim the win, with Massa hanging on in second behind him, both men lapping well off the pace.
However, after the race the FIA investigated the earlier Raikkonen/Hamilton chicane incident and deemed that Lewis had indeed gained an advantage when he jumped past Raikkonen after initially letting by. He was given a 25-second penalty, dropping him to third behind Massa and Nick Heidfeld.