Aitken proposes Eau Rouge change after horror crash

Jamie Woodhouse
A view of the Eau Rouge and Raidillon corners at Spa-Francorchamps. Belgium, July 2020.

A view of the Eau Rouge and Raidillon corners at Spa-Francorchaps, home of the Belgian Grand Prix. Belgium, July 2020.

While acknowledging it is a sensitive subject, Jack Aitken has some changes on safety grounds to propose for Spa’s Eau Rouge corner.

The British-Korean racer was involved in a major incident during the Spa 24 Hours as his stranded car at the top of Eau Rouge was struck by several others.

Aitken emerged from the crash with a collarbone and vertebra fracture, and a return to action is not expected until late September at the earliest.

Eau Rouge sadly is, as history has shown us, a potentially very dangerous corner, but Aitken believes pushing the barriers back on the left-hand side could prove an advancement for safety.

“Obviously, it’s a bit of a sensitive subject because we’ve had some pretty serious accidents over the last decades, it’s always been a danger spot,” Williams reserve driver Aitken told

“I’ve thought about it a fair bit. In my opinion, I think they have done quite a good job for the most part with what is inherently a very fast corner with a blind exit.

“On the right-hand side it’s very open at the top. I don’t think any major changes need to be made there, and we saw a couple of cars over the weekend in the Spa 24 Hours that did lose it to the right and that was relatively completely fine.

“There’s enough space and it’s far enough off the track that you’re okay.

“The problem is with the kind of crash I had when you hit the barrier on the left, the distance from the middle of Eau Rouge, when you’re going up the hill, into that left barrier isn’t big enough. You don’t have time to slow down.

“It’s also for the type of accident I had where you are over-correcting a slide, the car was still relatively straight for me. But I knew there was no way I would avoid the barrier or have time to turn away from it because the run-off is just not deep enough.

“So that’s one thing, that needs to be deeper.

“Because of it not being deep enough, when you do collide it absorbs the energy and bounces you back out – it puts you right into the firing line.”

Williams reserve driver Jack Aitken in Abu Dhabi. December, 2020.
Williams reserve driver Jack Aitken in the paddock at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. December, 2020.

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Aitken said he has held talks with the FIA to see what role he could play in any modifications, but cast doubt on gravel and the idea it could have helped in the case of his accident.

“I’ve already spoken with a couple of people on the FIA side to try and see if there’s anything I can do from the drivers’ perspective just to offer my opinion,” he confirmed.

“Prefacing that with I’m not the circuit designer, I don’t know what the challenges are with that corner in terms of putting things back and around.

“I don’t think gravel would have helped on this occasion because travelling 200-250 kilometres an hour, with maybe five to 10 metres of run-off, it’s just not enough to slow down and actually it could have made it worse because the dust would have obscured the view even more.

“Speaking to the drivers behind me who were involved, that was one of the main issues. They knew there was a big crash because of all the debris, but the smoke meant they had no idea where the car was and with the crest, you can’t see that far ahead.”