Blanchimont is the fastest corner on the Spa Francorchamps circuit, and it’s scarily fast. F1 drivers keep the throttle flat to the floor and hit the apex at over 310kph.
On this corner at those speeds there’s not a lot of room for mistakes. Numerous racers have lost their lives here over the years.
This article takes an in-depth look at this incredibly daunting corner, lists the fastest cornering speeds achieved in F1 and looks at how the corner has evolved from the death trap it was in the early twentieth century. It also provides some info on the best places to spectate from near Blanchimont.
where is Blanchimont?
Blanchimont at Spa is actually made up of two left handers. The first is more of a kink which is easily flat out in every car that races on the circuit. The second left hander is the daunting one that everyone actually knows and refers to as Blanchimont.
Blanchimont corner comes right at the end of a lap of the 19-turn Spa Francorchamps circuit. The left kink is Turn 16 and the actual corner is Turn 17.
Before it is Curve Paul Frere and after it is the Chicane, also known as the Bus Stop, which leads on to the start / finish straight.
why is it called Blanchimont?
Directly translated Blanchimont means ‘White Mountain’ or ‘Bleached Mountain’. This part of Spa is carved in to a valley right at the base of a massive hill which could well be classed as a mountain. Google Earth shows how steep the hillside is next to this part of the circuit.
Looking at some old maps of Belgium from the 1700s we can spot the name Blanchimont assigned to an area of land. It’s very possible that this parcel of land was given the name based on the hill / mountain, with a chalky base, that it sat on. In fact the map shows ‘Sur Blanchimont’ which means ‘on the white mountain’ so that makes sense.
If you look closely at the map you can also spot some other areas that gave their name to different corners on the Spa Francorchamps circuit. Rivage and Les Fagnes are just a couple.
Blanchimont later became a small village which made way for the circuit when it was first constructed in the early 1900s.
evolution of Blanchimont corner
7 different drivers and riders have been killed at Blanchimont corner since Spa Francorchamps was first used as a race track. The first death was in 1949 and the most recent was in 1996.
Over the years various changes have been made to the corner to try and improve it’s safety. Here’s a look at how the corner has evolved over the decades.
1930s - 1960s
In the early days of Spa Francorchamps this part of the track was a public road that had been turned in to a race circuit. This meant there were pretty much no safety measures in place.
The road at Blanchimont was raised up high off the ground. There were no armco barriers, hay bales or tyre walls on the outside of the corner. To the right there was just a massive drop with absolutely no run-off area. The speed of this corner combined with the perils of the cliff-edge the drivers were racing on meant this was the most dangerous corner on the circuit.
In the late 1950s a small barrier was erected on the outside of Blanchimont. This might have helped keep some cars from dropping off the edge, but definitely not all.
9:20 in the video below shows the perils of this corner in the ‘50s and 60’s.
By the 1980s, in the era of the ‘new’ Spa Francorchamps circuit, the safety measures had been increased. Full height armco barriers lined the circuit including both sides of the track at Blanchimont.
The large drop to the right of the track still existed, so the barriers were placed directly on the edge of the circuit. The run-off between the edge of the circuit and the barrier was a foot wide at most. There was absolutely zero margin for error. The circuit resembled the Nordschleife with its complete lack of run-off.
The video below from 1985 shows Blanchimont at 2:06.
It wasn’t until the early 1990s that some proper run-off appeared on the outside of Blanchimont. The ground to the right of the circuit was levelled off, the barriers were pushed further back and a gravel trap appeared.
Check out Schumacher tackling the corner in 1997.
2000s - present day
In 2001 the gravel trap was removed and the whole run-off area was tarmacked over. Anyone making a slight mistake and running a little wide on the exit could now get away with it.
This was deemed to be the safest layout for the high-speed corner and it’s how Blanchimont has remained ever since. The only other changes have been to push the barrier further and further back from the edge of the track to allows cars and bikes more margin for error.
From personal experience I can definitely say I’m glad there’s so much run-off on the outside of the corner. Doing a trackday at Spa in the rain with a couple of friends resulted in pushing a bit too hard at Blanchimont in an effort to keep up. Check out 10:27 in the video below where all three of us make full use of the tarmac run-off area.
F1 speed around Blanchimont
Blanchimont at Spa Francorchamps has been flat-out in F1 cars since the early ‘90s. This is as a result of the armco barrier’s removal, the gravel trap’s installation and the cars’ downforce levels increasing.
Amazingly it’s even flat out in the rain, such are the levels of downforce the F1 cars are producing at the speeds seen around Blanchimont.
And the speeds are upwards of 300kph. The exact minimum speed through the corner depends largely on the downforce setup of each car and whether there’s a slipstream to be had from a car ahead.
Here are a few of the fastest F1 speeds through Blanchimont in recent years:
|Blanchimont - Fastest F1 speeds|
|1||322kph / 200mph||Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||2019|
|2||319kph / 198mph||Kimi Raikkonen||Ferrari||2017|
|3||315kph / 196mph||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||2018|
|4||314kph / 195mph||Jenson Button||McLaren||2012|
|5||312kph / 194mph||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||2020|
As the table shows the fastest minimum speed through Blanchimont is 322kph / 200mph set by Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari SF90 F1 car. Leclerc entered Blanchimont at 329kph and dropped 7kph through the corner.
That year the Ferrari was exceptionally fast on the straights. It ran a lower downforce setup at Spa which compromised its speed through the corners. Despite it’s incredible straight-line speed it wasn’t able to match the Mercedes W11 over a lap.
where to spectate?
general admission areas
To the left of the circuit there’s a spectators pathway that runs all the way from the exit of Curve Paul Frere up to the Chicane, shown as the pink line in the image below. This is a popular spectating point for Spa Bronze area ticket holders.
From here you can stand up against the fence and watch the cars come around Blanchimont at over 300kph.
One of the more popular places to watch from on this pathway is close to the Chicane. From there you have visibility of the overtaking action on the way in to the Chicane plus you can see the exit of Blanchimont.
You’re not just confined to the pathway either. You’re free to climb the bank to the left of the circuit and try and find a spot with a higher vantage point.
There are no grandstands at Blanchimont itself. The closest is the Gold 6 grandstand on the left hand side of the circuit at the entrance to the chicane.