Amid the discussions about Formula 1's future, last weekend's Belgian Grand Prix provided a reminder that there is no substitute for a traditional venue. The fact that the race has survived on the calendar - despite the financial uncertainties that led to its cancellation in 2003 and '06 - is an indication that Bernie Ecclestone is well aware of that. He's always had a soft spot for Spa.
In fact this year marked the 40th anniversary of a Belgian GP that played a significant role in how the sport has unfolded on Ecclestone's watch. It took place not at Spa but at Nivelles, a blandly anonymous venue near Brussels that hosted just two F1 races in its short history. It was the second, held on May 12 1974, that arguably first really opened Bernie's eyes to the commercial possibilities of the sport.
Nivelles came into the equation because of the ongoing safety debate over the original Spa. The Grand Prix Drivers' Association had long been concerned by the circuit, especially in the rain, which led to the race being cancelled in 1969. It was reinstated in '70 after improvements were made, but the drivers were still not happy. At a meeting of the CSI (forerunner of the FIA) in Geneva in March '71 the race was kicked off that year's calendar.
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