Formula 1: Questions arise over safety of Spa circuit’s iconic Raidillon-Eau Rouge stretch after crashes

Spa-Francorchamps, Aug 29 (PTI): Questions were being asked on Saturday over the safety of Spa’s iconic Raidillon-Eau Rouge stretch after a second heart-stopping, high-speed accident in 24 hours.

Britain’s Lando Norris was the latest to fall foul of the circuit when he lost control of his McLaren after the rear end hit the barriers at Eau Rouge.

“For me, it’s horrible to see. For a lot of people in the paddock, it reminds us of the dark days of two years ago. We lost a friend, and a great driver, Anthoine, at the same turn,” said Charles Leclerc.

The Ferrari driver was flashing back to 2019 when his friend Anthoine Hubert, 22, was killed in a Formula Two race, caught in a pile-up after sweeping up the famed 17 percent gradient hill and turn.

“It’s very sad to see an accident here again. I was happy to see that Lando is doing well, even though he had to go to the hospital for check-ups.”

Leclerc added “something is planned for this turn in the future, so that’s good to know”.

On Friday, there was a six-car pile-up in W Series qualifying while earlier this year Williams F1 reserve driver Jack Aitken was involved in another accident in the Spa 24 Hour Race.

Both Ayla Agren and Beitske Visser were hospitalised after the W Series crash.

“That was a very scary one but I think I had an angel on my shoulder,” tweeted Visser from her hospital bed.

The Belgian circuit, nestled in the Ardennes, is celebrating its centenary this season.

It remains one of motor racing’s most loved but most challenging tracks.

Those challenges are multiplied when the fickle Belgian climate becomes a factor.

Despite the crashes, improvements are planned ahead of the world motorcycling endurance championship at Spa in June next year.

The plans provide for some widening and the installation of gravel traps at five curves — La Source, Raidillon, Blanchimont, Les Combes and Stavelot.

That’s welcome news for some F1 drivers.

“At Eau Rouge, I think it’s probably too easy for us to go much faster than we should at this place,” said four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.

“I think it was tighter a few years ago. We are probably now going too fast here.”

However, another world champion, Fernando Alonso, said Eau Rouge was a challenge to be met.

“With a different barrier you can probably avoid some accidents, but it’s still a high speed corner. That’s the nature of the circuit and that’s what makes it special.”

Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton believes changes should involve minor tweaks rather than radical surgery.

“Of course there is a danger factor, but I like Eau Rouge as it is,” said Hamilton, the current championship leader.

“I think they should just get rid of the ‘bump’ and then leave Eau Rouge as it is.”

Daniel Ricciardo too remains firmly in the purists’ camp.

“They shouldn’t change the layout of the circuit but open up the clearance zone a little,” said the Australian.

“It’s a fun and iconic turn, but when things go badly it’s still a big accident. So if they don’t change the track but they improve the safety, I’m ok.”