Calls made against ‘knee-jerk’ changes to circuits following fatal Spa crash

Thomas Maher
Eau Rouge and Raidillon corners at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Participants in the memorial walk for Dilano van 't Hoff and Anthoine Hubert at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Lance Stroll’s calls for immediate changes to be made to Spa-Francorchamps have been met with some pushback…

Last month, 18-year-old Dutch driver Dilano van ‘t Hoff was killed in an accident on the final lap of a FRECA race at Spa-Francorchamps. He had ended up sideways across the track along the Kemmel Straight in heavy rain following a multi-car chain reaction, when he was struck in a heavy impact by Irish racer Adam Fitzgerald – Fitzgerald suffering broken bones in the collision.

The fatality, not even four years on from Formula 2 racer Anthoine Hubert losing his life in a similar crash at the top of Raidillon a few metres further back, led to Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll expressing his dismay at the events that had occurred.

Lance Stroll calls for circuit changes at Spa-Francorchamps

Speaking over the Austrian Grand Prix weekend the same day as the van ‘t Hoff crash, Stroll said he is in favour of seeing immediate changes made to the famous stretch of track.

“I think Eau Rouge at Spa needs some looking into because we’ve lost two drivers now in a span of four or five years. And it’s a really dangerous corner and we say it every year. It’s not fair what happened today,” he said.

“I think that corner has to change. I think it’s way too dangerous and I think every time we go through there, there’s an accident waiting to happen. And today, it happened again, and we lost a young kid. It’s not fair.”

Asked if the drivers will discuss this incident and what the response should be, and whether that falls within their scope of influence, Stroll replied: “Well we have to talk about it.

“Like I said, two drivers in a span of five years and yeah, that corner needs some changing.”

David Coulthard: Accidents can happen anywhere in the rain

Reflecting sombrely on the incident as David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan appeared on their Formula For Success podcast, Coulthard pointed to the example of the extreme circuit modifications that were used in the aftermath of the 1994 fatalities of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger as examples of what not to do.

The former Williams, McLaren, and Red Bull racer said that, in the world of motorsport, dangerous circumstances can happen at any point on a racetrack once heavy rain sets in.

“Wet conditions, you could lose control of the car at any point,” he said.

“Silverstone – you’ve got the kink going onto the Hangar Straight, you could lose control there and it has happened. You could find yourself in front of a group of cars.

“I actually had a broken leg in the support race [at Spa] in 1990. Going down the hill to Pouhon on the first lap, I got touched, hit the wall, came back in front of the field, and then Kenny Brack, a Swedish driver, was the guy that I had contact with, and then somebody else ran into the side of my car and it broke my leg.

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“So [van ‘t Hoff’s accident] is sadly a reminder that motor racing is dangerous. I raced at Spa in the aftermath of 1994 and the tragic loss of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna and we put a chicane at the bottom of Eau Rouge as a knee-jerk reaction to basically slowing down any fast corners.

“We all wanted to go back to the thrill of driving Eau Rouge. It’s incredible to drive a race car at high speed through that corner. So I personally don’t think we should be changing corners that comply with FIA standards for run-off. What happens on the racetrack, can always happen on the racetrack – irrespective of whether it’s Spa, whether it’s Silverstone, whether it’s Monte Carlo.

“If you’re in the middle of a racetrack stopped and another car doesn’t manage to slow down, you’re going to have a major incident. So I don’t think we should be knee-jerk changing circuits, even through another tragedy of a loss of life.”

Jordan agreed with Coulthard “100 percent”, saying: “As much as I loved Ayrton Senna and Roland, what Max [Mosley] did at the following races, that was all knee-jerk.

“What happened at Imola that terrible tragic weekend hasn’t been repeated, thankfully. So yes, we can learn from it. I’ve never seen, at the moment, cars so reliable and so safe as they are currently in Formula 1.

“Fair play to Lance to bring this point up, at least he’s caring about other people in a sport where he came up in a sport and he has survived. But please don’t start messing around with circuits.”

Current F1 drivers weigh in on Spa changes

Speaking over the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, Williams racer Logan Sargeant admitted that powering through Eau Rouge and Raidillon in the rain is very scary.

“You can’t see the edge of the track, you can’t see your front wing,” he said.

“You can’t see the brake markers, you can’t see the car in front of you, you’re just driving flat out into a wall of white mist. So honestly, in that situation, I think it’s getting to the point where it’s a bit too much.

“I think this track, in particular… I guess the history makes it a bit more scary.”

Asked whether racing at Spa in such treacherous conditions is the most scared he’s ever felt in a racing car, Sargeant was pensive.

“I mean, you’re driving flat up through Eau Rouge, but you don’t feel like you should be going flat out, that’s for sure,” he said.

“You don’t know what’s on the other side and that’s never nice. I’d say it’s the one condition in racing that I feel that I can actually feel the scare of it to be honest. It’s not ideal.”

Pierre Gasly, who revealed he had not watched the footage of van ‘t Hoff’s crash due to a desire not to relive the emotions of close friend Hubert’s crash, also shared his thoughts on the possibility of changing Spa’s layout.

“I can’t really make precise comments on what needs to be done,” he said.

“But I think the straight-line itself, you can take the straight line in Barcelona, the speed will be pretty much the same. In Jeddah, it’s extremely fast… we’re always gonna be at high-speed. We don’t want F1 or lower categories to be limited to 150 kph, obviously.”

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