Belgian GP: Why Spa 1998 remains one of the most remarkable F1 races ever

Former world champion Damon Hill won a Formula 1 race for the 22nd and final time at Spa on 30 August 1998

“Oh, this is terrible, this is quite appalling, this is the worst start to a grand prix I have ever seen in the whole of my life.”

Legendary commentator Murray Walker was seldom lost for words and true to form they did not fail him when it came to calling the incredible 1998 Belgian Grand Prix.

With the 20-year anniversary of the race approaching, now seems a good time to look back on an enthralling event that featured a 13-car pile-up, spectacular crashes, a furious pit-lane bust-up, horrendous weather from start to finish and a maiden win for one of the sport’s underdogs.

BBC Sport remembers one of the most incident-filled races in the 68-year history of the sport, with analysis throughout from the BBC’s chief Formula 1 writer Andrew Benson, who was there that day.

“Memories are a little hazy – it was 20 years ago, after all,” says Benson.

“But they amount to a mix of shock, surprise, joy and most of all, a sense of a kind of pervading madness all around.”

Unlucky 13 – first-lap carnage sets the tone

The race was the 13th of 16 that season, with McLaren’s Mika Hakkinen leading the drivers’ championship and chasing his first world title, seven points clear of two-time champion Michael Schumacher of Ferrari.

The weekend was lively from the outset with Hakkinen, Jacques Villeneuve and Mika Salo crashing in practice, before Hakkinen took pole with Schumacher fourth.

Come Sunday, the heavens opened in a big way, but the decision was taken to start the race at the scheduled time without a safety car.

And it looked to be a wise move as the cars got under way… for all of 15 seconds.

Hakkinen led the pack down the hill towards Eau Rouge and then the drama started.

David Coulthard gets it wrong on the exit of the first corner and is spat across the track
Eventual race winner Damon Hill avoids being collected but others behind are less fortunate
As Coulthard’s battered McLaren slithers down the barriers, the accident collects Eddie Irvine (Ferrari), Rubens Barrichello (Stewart), Olivier Panis, Jarno Trulli (both Prost), Johnny Herbert (Sauber) and Mika Salo (Arrows)
Alexander Wurz (Benetton) and Jos Verstappen (Stewart) are also caught in the carnage, while the Tyrrell of Ricardo Rosset is a latecomer to the trouble, slamming into the cars ahead
Thirteen cars are ultimately damaged in the accident. Four are unable to take the restart

So what was it like being in the middle of all this?

In 2015, Ferrari’s Eddie Irvine told the official Formula 1 website