Raidillon GT crash “haunting” for Correa ahead of his return to race at Spa

Formula 3

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Juan Manuel Correa, who was almost killed in a collision at Spa’s Raidillon bend in 2019, described a recent GT crash at the same corner as “haunting”.

Correa was placed on life support and suffered serious leg injuries in the Formula 2 crash which also claimed the life of Anthoine Hubert.

Last weekend four competitors in the Spa 24 Hours were involved in a serious crash at the same corner. They included Jack Aitken, who participated in the same F2 race.

Correa said he is “extremely happy that Jack, as well as the other drivers involved in the accident are recovering from their injuries”. Aitken sustained a broken collarbone and a fractured vertebra in a crash which bore similarities to the one Correa experienced two years ago.

“The accident occurred almost two years after my own accident at the same notorious Raidillon-Eau Rouge turn in the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, where I suffered serious injuries from which I am still recovering and the motorsport community tragically lost fellow driver Anthoine Hubert,” said Correa. “The images of the crash are therefore particularly haunting.”

During his recovery last year Correa attended the Belgian Grand Prix to visit the scene of his crash. He returned to racing in Formula 3 this season and will compete at Spa for the first time since the accident in the series’ next round at the end of August.

He has been in discussions with the sport’s governing body, the FIA, about the dangers posed by the corner.

“Since my accident, I have raised various concerns with the FIA and organisers about track and driver safety,” he said. “I have offered to share information from my own experience. I have been seeking answers about what happened, why, and what steps the FIA and other stakeholders have taken to make safety improvements to avoid another driver from suffering a serious injury in similar circumstances.

“At this time discussions are ongoing with relevant stakeholders to try and resolve my concerns. I am confident those discussions will reach a constructive conclusion and I will be in a better position to comment in the coming weeks.”

The FIA’s report on the crash cleared the drivers involved of responsibility. It subsequently announced a series of safety improvements for tracks and cars, as well as warning systems for drivers.

Following last weekend’s crash Alfa Romeo F1 driver Callum Ilott, who was also involved in the race where Hubert’s fatal accident occured, called for changes to the Raidillon corner.

FIA Formula 1 race director Michael Masi said the circuit remains compliant with the governing body’s safety standards and holds the grade one licence necessary to hold grands prix.

“There’s been some works that have been undertaken at Spa in a number of areas,” said Masi. “But the Spa circuit holds a current grade one.

“There are a few changes, improvements that are made year on year. But I think the way that it is, it’s safe from an FIA perspective.”

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Keith Collantine
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29 comments on “Raidillon GT crash “haunting” for Correa ahead of his return to race at Spa”

  1. How is Correa doing in F3? I haven’t watched the races, but I do see he’s pretty far behind his teammates in ART GP. But I don’t know if maybe he’s had a lot of bad luck. I find it amazing and impressive he’s managed to come back at all and perform.

    1. @ajpennypacker He’s been fairly consistently finishing in the lower teens.

      Not bad, considering he’s racing with hand controls after a year out and still regularly beating half the grid.

    2. He’s doing an amazing job.
      Currently normally in the midfield, hasn’t graced the podium. Imho he’s lost a few tenths, especially in battling situations he can seem vulnerable – but I don’t know if he’s using hand or adjusted controls.
      If this was a rookie, you’d say it was a satisfactory performance and is showing signs of improvement. Which, is incredible considering all he’s gone through.
      I’m concerned about him driving at Spa in this mindset.

  2. I really hope this turn isn’t neutered. It would be like removing the corkscrew from Laguna Seca. It hurts me to think about it!

    1. I agree, although it does make me slightly nervous after some of the crashes there.

      It’s one of the greatest sections of track in all Motorsport though, so on balance it would be a great shame to see it ruined.

    2. I agree. It is the driver and the car that should adapt to the circuit, not the other way around. Racing is dangerous, but it is the safety of the cars and the experience of the driver that should mitigate the risk. Otherwise you might end up with a Paul Ricard like layout where driver errors go unpunished.

      1. The problem is no amount of experience can mitigate a blind crest that immediately follows a very quick direction change. If a car is sitting in the middle of circuit as you go over, there’s not much a driver can do.

        We live in a different era now where the days of “drivers should be able to deal with it” is no longer socially acceptable. I suspect the FIA and Spa will make change. They can stick a chicane where the rally cross track is. That’s probably ebing look at.

        1. I want them to change it for safety. It will always keep a nostalgia value. Without changing it, there is certain to be more terrible accidents. If they don’t change it they need to immediately think of new yellow flag safety strategies.

          1. There’s no yellow flag strategy that would stop what happened to Aitken. He was impacted 2.5 seconds after hitting the wall. The cars can’t reduce enough speed safely at that area of the circuit.

        2. no amount of experience can mitigate a blind crest that immediately follows a very quick direction change

          Exactly. This is a huge problem. A huge TV screen visible from the turn entry showing the turn exit could help. I hope the solution is not further modification.

        3. There’s two peddles in the car. If you haven’t got your setup right after practice and qually then perhaps you have to lift off the go peddle through that corner. It can’t all be the responsibility of the circuit and the governing body.

    3. They could get rid of the tarmac and replace it with sand or ridged gravel. The logic of tarmac is that it allows drivers to brake before hitting the wall. However, the penny never seems to drop in the mind of the FIA and it never seems to occur to them that in reality, (aside from making racing boring) drivers just go faster into the corner knowing that there are acres of run-off. Get rid of the tarmac and replace it with race ruining sand and they will be more cautious in the corners.

    4. yeah. It looked impossible to improve the safety there as there is no way of extending the runoff much. in brazil they found a way to extend the runoff and spa is not using gravel or tecpro

  3. Just saw the video of both the accidents. One key similarity I noticed was that the drivers coming from behind were completely blindsided to the accident due to the incline of raidillon. Hence, they ploughed into the back of the stricken car at high speed causing a huge crash.

    I remember reading in the comments section that one can perhaps use a large screen at the start of raidillon to alert the drivers of a crash just upfront. But that solution had challenges of real-time video transmitting which could have technical errors.

    What if we have a system of one or two large mirrors that transmit the what is happening on top of the hill back to start of Raidillon. Similar to what are used in hilly roads /blind turns.

    I don’t think other solutions such as increasing run-off will work as the problem is the lack of visibility caused to high incline. And the high incline is what makes the corner great. Neutering that would be a shame.

    1. I was there last weekend visiting my old friend and while the marshalls on top are waving yellows i think the drivers doesn’t know there is a crash. There should be a very BIG warning light at the start of Radilion and a big one on top so the drivers can see it as they are at the bottom the moment the marshalls are waving Yellows like a button or so and not a single yellow just bam doubles because the drivers have all full throttels the hill up.

      1. GtisBetter (@)
        5th August 2021, 8:41

        I think the FCY was implemented really fast, but there is almost no time between the first car hitting the barrier and the next cars who already started driving up au rouge with those speeds. But I definitly think more ideas should be considered to make it safer.

    2. At 150mph this isn’t really feasible for a number of reasons.

      The issue with Radillon is when you’re in a race car you can’t just lift and brake at those speeds without risking a gigantic accident. It was 2.5 seconds from Aitken hitting the wall and then getting hit. The second hit came when he wasn’t even in the track.

      Secondarily drivers aren’t cruising here. They are flat out going through a corner, that while isn’t as challenging as it once was, is still an issue for the driver if something goes wrong. They can’t simply watch giant mirrors. If someone crashes you need to be focused on what you’re doing. Watching a mirror won’t make any difference, it could in fact increase risk. There’s no suggestion that these kind of ideas have efficacy and there’s so many issues that I am not describing here.

      The problem is that it’s a blind crest that the approach too has corners changing direction at huge speed. It leaves very little chance to decrease speed and take avoiding action in the event of an accident. The only solution is a change in layout or decreasing speeds dramatically on the entry.

      We are now in an era where if a safety issue is clear, then dramatic action will inevitably be taken.

      1. What about a screen in the car of the driver that flashes yellow when an accident has occurred in a blind corner? Or perhaps the speed of the car could be slowed down immediately by the teams on the pit wall?

        1. Some cars do have screens that flash yellow. The problem is Aitken got hit just 2.5 seconds after he hit the wall (and then a further 3 until the next hit). These are impossibly short times we’re talking. there simply isn’t enough time for a driver to see yellows, and scrub enough speed to make the situation safe.

          The additional problem with Radillon is you can’t just slow dramatically. The way car dynamics work is you can have a gigantic accident if your car is loaded on one side and you just slam on the anchors. Decreasing of speed has to happen in a controlled manner by the driver. Outside controls could have disastrous consequences too.

          The problem is the blind crest following a super fast corner with dramatic elevation changes. The only feasible solution in my view is a big change in layout, or to slow the cars massively.

          I don’t like seeing Spa getting changed either more than it is. But I can’t impose my own levels of acceptance of danger onto the drivers who are now voicing their concerns.

  4. For safety reasons, decades ago the gravel traps were removed in this corner. Before their removal these gravel traps launched cars into the air and the barriers, see Villeneuve’s crash as an example.

    Now these gravel traps will return – simply for monetary reasons. Spa wants to host motorcycle races and these need gravel traps. And yes, many fans and even drivers want gravel traps back too – to punish drivers for making a mistake.

    These are not the changes Ilott called for, but these are the changes we are getting.

  5. Without neutering Raidillon, there is little that can be done to improve safety. Not even if immediate Red flags were shown on incident. Reprofiling the corner and slope, could possibly make it safer, but, would this be an option given the geography of the area.

  6. A track reprofile that might work would be to lose the blind crest at Raidilon by making it a constant incline from the dip in Eau Rouge to somewhere half way to Kemmel. So instead of ‘up an over’ you just have an ‘up’ with visibility vastly improved.

  7. I definitely think they need to build out to extend the run off dramatically and yes I know it’s been written about before on this site that it’s not possible due to a sharp drop off and a stream behind (I think) but this is motorsport with millions of $ circulating around and peoples lives very much at risk every single race, I’m sure they could construct it if they actually put the effort and crucially the money in. That could at least massively reduce the regular occurrence of cars bouncing back onto the path of incoming cars. As for the barrier to the left directly at the top I’m not familiar with that area but if that could be expanded somehow as well to make a straight run through… they must try.

  8. petebaldwin (@)
    5th August 2021, 11:40

    I don’t want the turn changed because it would destroy one of the best sections of tracks in F1 but I understand the concerns.

    It did make me laugh to ready the usual Masi comments completely ignoring people’s concerns and worries: “There are a few changes, improvements that are made year on year. But I think the way that it is, it’s safe from an FIA perspective.”

    He lacks the ability to actually explain anything… People say things are unsafe (like the pit entry at Baku) and all he has to say is “nah… It’s safe.”

    Having worked in health & safety for several years, I’d have been sacked if people came to me with potential issues and I just constantly brushed them off by saying “it’s already been risk assessed and therefore, from the company’s perspective, it’s safe.”

  9. I hate angled crashes on tyre barriers, as cars usually bounce back to the track and stay put. I do believe the best way to deal with a crash at that section is for the car to be spit out ahead instead of cushioned back for collection. If we look back to past crashes there, this is almost always the case. And I’m gonna pick the last casualty event to point out the moment Correa stikes Hubert, both kept the momentum by going ahead and then the four immediate following cars reacted in a timely manner.

    Therefore, had the walls been drawed back with SAFER barriers installed, two things would happen as consequence: the first, any driver losing control there would inevitably crash and be spit out ahead. This way any driver starting to climb the hill behind would know for a fact the moment the smoke lock-up rises a crash certainly happened and then they’d slow down right away. Ergo, a safer approach.

    The second, any driver crashing at Raidillion being spit ahead would keep the momentum, giving following drivers proper time to react and slow down without getting surprised by a spawning block at his face like a nasty obstacle video-game.

    I must add, had been this way even Anthoine could survive as Alesi wouldn’t be suddenly at his face prompting his crash. Nor Aitken would park in the middle of Kemmel for collection at the GP3 crash.

  10. Rework the corner so it’s a corner again and not a flat out blind bend. The technology has advanced beyond the challenge the corner was intended for, it’s time to adapt it for modern speeds.

    1. the corner was tighter but needed to be tighter than in the past to not require more runoff.
      the fia could trial an electronic speed limiter, something conservative to the effect of a pop-off valve, there is still the problem that yellows take way too long to pop up, again the fia generally tracks cars in multiple ways, an electronic device that would immediately trigger a double yellow when the system picks up an abnormal g load on a car.

  11. F1oSaurus (@)
    6th August 2021, 9:47

    And again we saw drivers still going flat out going into an area where yellow flags are being waved and flooring it across the runoff. Nothing has been learned.

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