On this day in 1997, Michael Schumacher reaffirmed just how much better he was than everyone else in the wet
Schumacher was brilliant at Spa. Schumacher was brilliant in the wet. Schumacher at a wet Spa? Well, he was virtually unbeatable.
That was certainly the case in 1997, when a downpour 20 minutes before the start of the race completely soaked the circuit to the extent that it would start behind the safety car.
Many of the front-runners chose the full wet tyres, but Schumacher felt the track might dry out sooner than expected and opted for intermediates. It proved to be an inspired choice.
The safety car came in at the end of lap three, and Schumacher spent the first racing lap feeling out the conditions as Jacques Villeneuve led from Jean Alesi. Then at the start of lap five, Schuey pounced on Alesi at La Source and then slipped ahead of Villeneuve at Rivage.
By the end of the lap his lead was a whopping 5.8 seconds. A lap later he was leading by 16.9 seconds - yep, he pulled out 11.1 seconds on the field in a single lap!
He continued to be several seconds a lap faster than everyone as the lead increased. After nine racing laps his gap to the field was a full minute. By lap 14 the circuit was dry enough for slicks and Schumacher cruised home comfortably, his eventual winning margin over second-placed Giancarlo Fisichella being 26.7 seconds.
There’s no doubting that tyre choice played its part, but many other drivers had started on inters and they were nowhere near Schumacher’s pace.
It was a drive up there with the Monaco performance earlier that season and his famous drive in Spain the year before, where he was simply on another level to every other driver.