A number of F1 drivers have raised concerns about safety at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, after inclement weather was forecasted. On Saturday – the day of the sprint race – there is a 90% chance of rain and thunderstorms, peaking in the late morning and early afternoon at Spa-Francorchamps, according to CNN’s Weather team. On the day of the Belgian GP, there is a 40% chance of rain. The bulk of that rain is likely to fall in the afternoon and evening, otherwise there will be mostly cloudy skies. The track at Spa-Francorchamps has a history of crashes.
Earlier in July, 18-year-old Dutch driver Dilano van ’t Hoff died as the result of a collision during a Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine (FRECA) race at the track. Dutch race car driver Dilano van ’t Hoff, 18, dies after crash during race in Belgium
In 2019, Formula 2 driver Anthoine Hubert died after being hit at high speed at Spa-Francorchamps. Alpine driver Pierre Gasly, a friend of Hubert, has led tributes to his fellow Frenchman whenever F1 has returned to the track.
Meanwhile Mercedes driver George Russell has called on the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), motorsport’s governing body, to make “bold” decisions in regards to calling off the race should the weather deteriorate. “At the moment it’s constant communication with the FIA following the tragic passing of Dilano in FRECA. The two questions are: Is Spa safe enough? Then, it’s a question of the conditions. Motorsport will always be dangerous when you’re travelling at this speed,” Russell said, per Sky Sports .
“If you were to put a ranking of risk of all of the circuits, for sure Spa is one of the riskier circuits along with Jeddah, Monaco and Suzuka to a degree. Then the combination of the weather, it’s very challenging. “We just have no visibility whatsoever. The way I describe it is driving down a motorway in pouring rain and turning your windscreen wipers off. So not really any short-term solutions.
I personally think Spa is safe enough, we just need to find a solution for the visibility.”
Two years ago, the race was canceled due to poor weather after just three minutes and 27 seconds of racing. Russell, who is also a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, added: “Fortunately the weather looks better on Sunday, so that will be going ahead. But following recent events, I think the FIA have to be bold with their decisions when it comes to safety and visibility.
“We all want to race but when you’re going down that straight at over 200mph and you can’t see 50 meters in front of you, there will be huge incidents. So they have a big responsibility this weekend.”
Other drivers – including Carlos Sainz, Valtteri Bottas and Fernando Alonso – have echoed Russell’s concerns about the safety of driving on the track in poor weather. Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc also said changes can be made to the track to make it safer.
“The walls in the straights after Eau Rouge I think could be … we should have a bit more space on the left and right where, if you lose control of the car,” Leclerc told reporters during his pre-race press conference.
“I think the way it is done at the moment, you are bouncing on the walls, and you have very high chances of finding yourself in the way again, and I think this is probably a change that we should consider in the future.”
Eau Rouge, named after the stream which runs underneath it and its reddish hue, is one of motorsport’s most famous corners. The corner has evolved over the years, with the safety measures implemented, such as barriers being moved back, as cars get faster. Leclerc added: “Then the two biggest problems after that is visibility.
It’s really difficult to put into words what we are seeing, apart from saying that we are seeing nothing. “But we are not exaggerating, when we say we don’t see anything: we really don’t see anything when it’s raining. “And this is a really big problem for Formula 1, for motorsport in general, any single-seaters. Now, we have quite a bit of downforce, there’s quite a lot of spray. And then this causes quite a lot of incidents, just because we cannot react to what there is in front.
So easy to say that, much more difficult to find a solution for that. “But I know that the FIA is on it, and is obviously trying to do the best on that. When is it safe to start a race, and this is another topic for the FIA to look closely, especially on a weekend like this, where it seems we will have quite a lot of rain throughout the whole weekend, to not feel the pressure of starting a race.”
“But at the end … safety comes first.
And this needs to be the priority and people, and first of all, us drivers, we shouldn’t complain if we don’t have any laps because it is not safe to do so, with everything that has happened.”
CNN has reached out to the FIA and the track’s organizers at Spa-Francorchamps for comment. © 2023 Cable News Network. A Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All Rights Reserved. CNN Sans ™ & © 2016 Cable News Network. Credit – CNN