Jenson Button will be ‘very upset’ if Spa drops off the calendar

Mark Scott
Jenson Button celebrates winning the Belgian Grand Prix. Spa 2012

McLaren driver Jenson Button celebrates winning the Belgian Grand Prix. Spa 2012

Jenson Button has warned Formula 1 against neglecting “old school” tracks like Spa in favour of more street circuits based in major capital cities.

There is a very real possibility that the iconic Spa-Francorchamps circuit, home of the Belgian Grand Prix, stops being a full-time, permanent fixture on the F1 calendar.

With the current contract between Spa and Formula 1 set to expire at the end of the 2022 campaign, there has been talk of the Belgian Grand Prix being rotated with other races and, worse still, rumours that the race could fall off the calendar completely in favour of other locations where F1’s current owners, Liberty Media, want to establish the sport in.

However, Button, who has fond memories of Spa having won there in 2012 back in his McLaren days, has said taking Spa away from the schedule would come with the risk of upsetting the drivers.

“If Spa isn’t there I’ll be very upset. Monaco is a tricky one because there’s lots going on behind the scenes,” Button said on the WTF1 podcast.

“But if you take away Spa, it’s for other reasons, not because it’s not a good circuit. It’s one of the best in the world, the racing’s amazing, the drivers love it and the teams love going there.

“We have to be a little bit careful. We know Formula 1 is entertainment and a certain TV show [Drive to Survive on Netflix] has made it very famous in America, which is great for the sport.

“But we need to make sure we keep the racing exciting and going to circuits that give us great racing because you’re going to see happy drivers.

“You’re going to get a lot more out of them if they’re in a good place, not thinking ‘why are we at this track? It’s not fun, we can’t overtake, it’s too narrow’.

“I like the mix of having street circuits and old school tracks, but we can’t be going to all city centres, and just going there because of the location.

“It needs to be because of the track itself and the country it’s in too because that’s how you get the fanbase.

“And having a fun race to watch on TV, with lots of fighting, is important too.”

As long as Formula 1 exists, Spa should always be on the calendar

If Formula 1 do continue to push towards 25 races a season – a figure which many people feel is the absolute limit the sport can go to without seriously running the risk of putting far too much stress on the team members – then there is more than enough room for Spa to remain in one of those precious calendar spots.

While the Formula 1 calendar continues to grow in both volume and reaching new territories, it is important the sport keeps the balance between the new tracks and the old rather than just favouring the former option.

The location, the unique nature of the track and the deep history Spa has with not just Formula 1 but motorsport in general, puts the Belgian Grand Prix in the same bracket as the British Grand Prix, Monaco Grand Prix and the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. It is a crown jewel there to be admired, not to be touched.

Of course, money always talks in Formula 1, even more so when other track officials are forming a heavy queue to bring the sport to their respective countries.

But, a bit of Formula 1’s soul would die if the 2022 edition of the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa proves to be the last visit.

It wouldn’t just be the drivers upset if this race fell off the calendar, millions of fans would be, too.