Eau Rouge, Spa-Francorchamps, 2021

Drivers urge changes to Eau Rouge and Raidillon after huge W Series crash

2021 F1 season

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Yesterday’s huge crash which caused the stoppage of the W Series qualifying session and put two drivers in hospital has prompted further calls for changes to the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

Beitske Visser and Ayla Agren were taken to hospital following the six-car crash at the top of Raidillon. Both were subsequently released, but the scale of the crash has raised concerns over the nature of the run-off in the high-speed Eau Rouge and Raidillon section.

Anthoine Hubert was killed and Juan Manuel Correa seriously injured in a collision during a Formula 2 race at the corner in 2019. Earlier this year Jack Aitken suffered injuries in a crash at Spa 24 Hours involving three other drivers.

Aitken, who started one F1 race for Williams last year and returned to F2 this season, said on social media he was “bloody thankful” that no one suffered serious injured in yesterday’s crash.

“I’m pretty sure everyone has gotten the picture of what needs changing,” Aitken added. Following his crash Aitken’s former F2 rival Callum Ilott also strongly urged changes to the corner.

F2 is not racing at the circuit this year. However Guanyu Zhou, who lies second in the points standings, also voiced his concerns over the corner following the W Series crash.

“Eau Rouge corner in Spa needs to making a change,” said the Alpine junior driver. “Don’t want to go too deeply into it but when every race weekend we see a huge incident involved in the same corner, we can’t just ignore it and move on.”

Pietro Fittipaldi, who made two F1 starts last year and broke his legs in a crash at the sequence in 2018, said “they need to do something to Eau Rouge to make it safer”.

Last year the Spa-Francorchamps operators announced plans to spend €80 million (£68.5m) on refurbishments. Among the work planned is run-off changes at five corners – including Raidillon – and the addition of gravel traps.

Some criticisms has also focused on the position and angle of the barriers. Several of the W Series drivers came to a stop at a barrier on the drivers’ left-hand side, where they were hit by other cars which spun. Aitken hit the same barrier in his crash, leaving his car in the firing line of others which then struck it.

“They need to change that left wall,” said former GP3 (now F3) driver Sacha Fenestraz. “It’s going to cause so many more dramatic accidents.” Fellow ex-F3 racer Jake Hughes agreed, saying the crashes were “happening far too often in Eau Rouge to ignore now.”

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Keith Collantine
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25 comments on “Drivers urge changes to Eau Rouge and Raidillon after huge W Series crash”

  1. Yeah this reaction was expected after yesterday. It’s impossible to ignore it, something has to be done. Hopefully they think of a good solution that doesn’t ruin the corner, but there are other priorities…

    Id like to know if there were any other big accidents like these before that sad day in 2019. Because it all seemed to happen since then, or at least it’s being highlighted because of the incident.

    1. @fer-no65 Fisichella 2005, Villeneuve once IIRC, Seb in lower single-seaters, Magnussen in 2016 GP. What I recall quickly. Also, Sutil in 2011 QLF, although he only lost a front wing.

    2. Apparently 1 dead and 2 nearly paralyzed wasn’t enough.

      Get this abomination off the f1 calendar already, enough is enough

      1. The track and the corner is excellently fine. Just ban from racing those who ignoring yellow flags.

        1. There it is again! You’re saying the same thing as you did last month.

    3. @fer-no65 that section of the track has been the site of major accidents going back to the 1980s, when Bellof was killed back in 1985 during the 1000km race of Spa.

      For historic incidents in F1, you have Jacques Villeneuve crashing twice – in 1998 and 1999 – and Zonta crashing in 1999. Fisichella crashed in 2005, and that crash promoted a major investigation as they later found that Fisichella helmet had been punctured by a bolt, as well as the Sutil and Magnussen incidents mentioned earlier.

      If you widen it to include other series, then there have certainly been other major accidents too – only a year earlier, there had been calls for reform when Pietro Fittipaldi crashed during the 2018 1000km of Spa WEC race, breaking both of his legs when an electrical failure caused him to lose control.

      There have been ongoing issues in subsequent years too as, only a few weeks ago, there was another accident during the GT3 24 Hours of Spa race, with Aitken breaking his collarbone.

      Masi had in fact been questioned about how safe Spa was in the press conferences before this weekend began, with Masi responding “There has been some works that have been undertaken at Spa in a number of areas. But the Spa circuit holds a current Grade 1 licence. There are a few changes and improvements that made year-on-year, but I think the way that it is, it is safe from an FIA perspective.”

    4. This is a really bad sign. I am 100% sure that the FIA will ask to slap a very slow chicane in Eau Rouge to make sure the cars are slow on the uphill. Another thing they might do is make this a straight.

      PS: The only reasonable solution is to move the walls farther so that the drivers aren’t thrown back on track after hitting the wall.

  2. Incorporate Rue Arsène de Noüe from Eau Rouge (left corner) to Radillion (left corner) onto the Kemmel Straight. It’s inclusion would bring about a nice complex and add a further historical element to the circuit.

  3. Far too often, hardly. Easier said than done, given the limited surrounding space.

  4. Tilt it off camber slightly. Then it will drain itself better and also the cornering speeds are reduced without taking too much away from the flow. No more flat out through Eau Rouge even for F1 cars, I feel that would make it better.

  5. The good news is that changes to the runoff area and the left hand side barrier are happening for next year. Even if many people are unaware

    1. Yup, Sainz confirmed this in his post-qualifying interview (and then wondered if he was allowed to say it out loud).

  6. F1 drivers used to die at a rate of 1 or 2 a year, no need to go back to those times but we cannot remove all danger from the sport either, risk is an inherent part of motorsport.

  7. Eau Rouge/Raidillon definitely need some change. At the start of FP3 today Alex Wurz proposed something unusual, but it might not be a bad idea. He thinks moving the barrier closer to the track at Raidillon would stop some of those horrific accindents, as the cars would tend to brush alongside the barriers and not rebound off the tire barriers and get thrown back onto the track.

    1. If that could work it would be a nice solution indeed!

    2. It sounds crazy… But it could actually work couldn’t it. I remember that’s what they did at the fast right hand oink where Kubica had his huge crash in 2008 – counter-intuitively they moved the concrete barrier right up to the edge of the track, not further away.

      1. @unicron2002
        They also put up a new barrier very close to the circuits before T3 at the RB Ring, after a horrifying crash in Moto GP last year to prevent cars/bikes getting thrown across the track.

    3. That sounds perfect. And the walls could be sth like those impact absorbing walls they use at oval tracks in IndyCar. The safest impact is one happening at the most accute angle and one that doesn’t stop the car on the stop, but just lets it slide forward alongside it. This would also eliminate dangerous t-boning of cars which crashed at super high speeds of impact.

  8. I’m a quite torn about this. While I entirely agree that it is a dangerous corner, it always has been no matter the numerous configuration changes it had. A truly safer corner would involve extensive work, destroying a building and probably carving a big escape escape way on the left, which could rejoin the track further up in Kemmel? I would really prefer a big gravel trap there, if it has to be done.

    But that would just not be the same corner and the same thrill? In a car it’s very hard not to pile on the brakes while arriving at Eau Rouge, so the angle is frightening, and then the Raidillon is like eating yourself entirely. For whoever already walked or raced the track there, having the left side entirely cleared up would be quite weird as the scenery makes it a blind corner in many ways.

    In the meantime, from a spectator point of view, this particular place is very narrow, crowded and unsighted. Maybe there could be some interest in having a new grandstand built further up a big gravel trap for example but that would involve cutting many trees and cost millions.

  9. I saw the videos, they seemed to be on slick tyres. Why would they be on slick if it was so damp?

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  10. I strongly believe that Eau Rouge has to stay as it is! The problem is in visibility and accidents taking place at Radillon. You don’t know what is happening at Radillon when you’re deep down in Eau Rouge fully committed to the corner doing almost 200mph. There should be signalization trough the Eau Rouge informing the driver instantly that accident happened at Radillon. A marshal or the race control should activate some sort of warning system – very intense flashing lights, or something similar – to signal drivers that they must reduce the speed before reaching Radillon. Consequently, we’d see less heavy shunts at Radillon and Eau Rouge would stay as it is.

  11. Eau Rouge is the most beautiful corner on the track and imo on the whole calendar. If they ruin the corner, they can just as well get rid of this track altogether.

  12. I think that virtually every car I’ve seen crash in Eau Rouge the past year has lost it in about the same place. Earlier in the corner than we tended to see in the past which is making them hit the wall on the left at the point where there is the least runoff.

    I have heard several drivers talk about a big bump appearing in the middle of the corner & i wonder if that is unsettling the cars in the wrong part of the corner which is contributing to some of the accidents in the various categories we have seen there.

  13. If these rich kids and the inexperienced W series drivers are driving beyond their talent and/or ignoring flags, they simply need to add a chicane (open, not super tight) midway on the drag up to eau rouge to keep their entry speed down a bit. Don’t ruin a legendary corner because over confident and non flag lights / flags abiding drivers are getting hurt. Don’t the F3 and F2 cars even have flag lights and or tones in their car? If not, add additional flag light spots.

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