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Formula 1 returns to Spa-Francorchamps this weekend, for a race weekend that includes a sprint, thus a single practice session too.
The historic circuit is one of the most beloved on the calendar, thanks to its flow, the challenging fast corners, and the big elevation changes. But it is one of the most dangerous as well.
It is something the Formula 1 paddock came up against in 2019, when Formula 2 driver Anthoine Hubert lost his life after getting collected in a multi-car pileup at the famous Eau Rouge corner. In the aftermath of the crash, changes were made to the runoff arear around the track -and that corner specifically.
Another tragedy occurred earlier this year, just a few meters later. In wet conditions, 18-year-old Dilano van ‘t Hoff lost his life after spinning on the wet track and getting collected by another car during a race for the Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine (abbreviated as FRECA).
The tragedy raised questions around the safety of the track and whether the current layout of the track should be altered to prevent future accidents.
Russell speaks on concerns about Spa
George Russell, who is also a representative of the drivers in the Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA), spoke regarding the safety of the track:
At the moment, we’re in constant comms with the FIA following the tragic passing of Dilano in FRECA.
The two questions are, is Spa safe enough? And then it’s the question of the conditions, and I think the fact is motorsport will always be dangerous when you’re travelling at these speeds.
If you were to put a ranking of risk of all the circuits for sure, Spa is one of the riskier circuits, along with Jeddah, and along with Monaco, for example, Suzuka to a degree.
Then when you got the combination of the weather, it’s very challenging. It’s the visibility, we just have no visibility whatsoever, and the way I describe it to try and give some perspective is driving down the motorway in pouring rain and turning your windscreen wipers off, and that’s genuinely how it feels from the cockpit.
So not really any short-term solutions. I personally think Spa is safe enough, but it’s just we need to find a solution for the wet for visibility.
Russell on Spa wet weather running this weekend
This weekend, wet weather running could be a factor for all three days, leading to a debate about whether running at the venue is deemed safe enough.
This comes two years after the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix, which ended after only two laps behind the safety car and saw half points being awarded. That event was regarded as a farce and remains one of the most controversial races in Formula 1 history.
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 29, 2021
Russell, who finished second for Williams and grabbed his maiden podium finish that day, commented on the weather conditions and how he sees the running proceed for this weekend:
I think, fortunately, the weather I think looks better on Sunday. So I think Sunday will be going ahead. But following recent events I think the FIA have to be bold with their decisions when it comes to safety when it comes to visibility.
We know what the situation was two years ago. We don’t want it to be strung out as perhaps it was then. But as I said, we are going to need some bold decisions.
We all want to race, everybody wants to race. But when you’re going down that straight at over 200 miles an hour, and you can’t see 50 metres in front of you, there will be huge incidents. So yeah, they’ve got a big responsibility this weekend.
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