Daniel Ricciardo, Eau Rouge, Raidillon, Spa-Francorchamps, 2022

F1 drivers differ over whether “dangerous” Spa track contributed to fatal crash

2023 Austrian Grand Prix

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One Formula 1 driver called for changes to the “dangerous” Spa-Francorchamps circuit following today’s fatal crash while others blamed poor visibility.

Max Verstappen said the crash which claimed the life of young racer Dilano Van ‘T Hoff is “incredibly sad” and the motorsport world must learn lessons from it.

Van ‘T Hoff died following a multi-car crash on the Kemmel straight in a rain-hit Formula Regional European Championship race earlier today.

Van ‘T Hoff is the second junior series driver to die in a crash at the circuit in four years. Formula 2 racer Anthoine Hubert was killed in a similar crash four years ago at Raidillon, shortly before the scene of today’s accident. The sequence is preceded by the famous Eau Rouge corner.

The run-off areas at the circuit were extended following Hubert’s death. However Lance Stroll believes the section of track needs further changes.

“It’s a tragic day for motorsport,” he told Sky. “We lost a driver today, so I just want everyone to think about that. My thoughts are with him today.

“It breaks my heart what happened. I think Eau Rouge at Spa needs some looking into because we’ve lost two drivers now in a span of four or five years. It’s a really dangerous corner and we say it every year and it’s not fair what happened today.

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“That corner has to change. It’s way too dangerous. I think every time we go through there, it’s an accident waiting to happen. And today it happened again and we lost a young kid and that’s not fair.”

The Eau Rouge-Raidillon sequence is the most famous section of the celebrated Spa track. But Stroll believes drivers “have to talk about” the possibility of making changes to it.

“It’s two drivers in a span of five years. That corner needs some changing. I just wanted to say that out loud before getting into my race because that’s been in the back of my mind today. It’s a sad day for racing.”

Max Verstappen said the death of his fellow Dutch racer was “incredibly sad”.

“I didn’t know him personally,” said Verstappen after his victory in today’s sprint race at the Red Bull Ring. “Of course, he was a Dutch racing driver up, and coming racing driver as well, who had the same dreams as we had when we were at that age, wanting to get into Formula 1 or whatever.

“It’s incredibly sad for the whole family and all involved, the team MP Motorsport I know quite a lot of people in there.”

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Verstappen said the motorsport world must draw lessons from the crash, but cautioned against blaming the layout of the circuit for the crash.

“We have to look into these kind of situations,” said Verstappen. “It’s easy to blame the track, but I think also looking at how wet it was and these kind of things, there are definitely things that we have to look at for the future, what we can do better to protect drivers, because I think today was unnecessary, really.”

Van ‘T Hoff died after he hit a barrier and was struck side-on by another car. Esteban Ocon said he had encountered similar incidents in his junior career and that more needs to be done to improve visibility.

“Obviously it’s not something we want to hear after today,” said the Alpine driver. “All my thoughts goes to the family.

“I’ve been in this situation in the past in Formula Renault and I have to say that these incidents should not happen. So there’s a lot to learn on that side.

“Often those things comes from bad weather, bad visibility and I’ve been in an exact same situation where I was looking to see where I was going, I couldn’t see and there was a car on the left in the past in Formula Renault also there. So there’s definitely something to learn with that many cars running and it’s obviously a very sad day for motorsport.”

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2023 Austrian Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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37 comments on “F1 drivers differ over whether “dangerous” Spa track contributed to fatal crash”

  1. I didn’t see this accident specifically. But what about changing the start finish line to the kemmel straight? It seems a lot of these accidents happen in pack racing conditions. Maybe if the race started after Eau Rouge it’d leave enough time for the pack to spread out a bit before coming back to Eau Rouge again.

    1. @fer-no65 Good idea in theory, but given Spa-Francorchamps’ natural limitations, I doubt making the Kemmel straight a new S/F straight would necessarily be practically viable.
      Additionally, while the pack would get to spread more by Eau Rouge-Raidillon on the opening lap if that combination was the last rather than towards the lap’s beginning, I doubt the pack would be considerably more spread out.

    2. I found the footage. To me it is obvious it is not about the track as in layout, corners or run-off. It could have happened on just about any high speed section of the track. It was a huge mist of spray, a tap, a spin, he went sideways and another car collected him with a gut wrenching sound. Changing starting locations would not influence the crash. Not going green with the conditions/cars/tires would have

      1. Its not the track. Maybe the marshals or racecontrol but those are not trac specific

        20 seconds before the fatal crash another driver spun offtrack. That should have brought out double yellow, meaning the other drivers would’ve had to slow down to a pace ready to stop when needed in that part of thebtrack, thus preventing the following fatal crash.

        Not bringing out double yellow was the huge error amd you cant blame that on spa

        1. I have no idea what flags were shown. But even if any flag was shown at the first accident site a green flag would have been shown further down the road where the fatal accident happened.

        2. Limit the field to twenty (2) racing cars … works for “F1”. And race min age to 21?

        3. I agree, yellow flags seem like a good idea there, in f1 for example even if a driver just goes long at a street track with a runoff, like could happen at saint devote and happens in baku often, you always see a yellow flag on the screen, then 10 sec after green flag when the driver came back onto the track, and to avoid such an incident, drivers slowing down to a speed where they could stop in case they came across a car stopped on track would’ve made all the difference.

          Even just if you hit the car at… I don’t know the impact speed, but I presume he’ll have had the time to brake a bit, an impact like this at 250 vs 150 kmh is completely different for survival chances and given the powerful breaks these cars have, it should’ve been achievable with immediate yellows, as soon as the driver lost control, since after all he crossed the track due to the spin, which was already a danger signal.

        4. Coventry Climax
          2nd July 2023, 2:04

          If the visibility is so poor that you can’t see a thing, then you also can’t see the flags, so I’d say waving flags is pretty pointless.
          If visibility is that poor, don’t race.
          Maybe it’s time to just ditch the whole full wet tyre saga -they’re no good anyway- and just don’t race under such conditions.
          To me, that’s the thing that needs be learned from this; race control not underestimating the danger of conditions like these, and certainly not have commercial interest prevail over safety decisions.

          1. I was pondering this. Spa is so unique in that there are places where visibility is fine and then maybe one place where it isn’t. Idly wondering if you could have a WEC-like slow zone at those sectors. Either way the visibility issue is something that now has to be taken much more seriously. It’s not worth people being killed for the show.

  2. As I pointed out in another article, how much more could realistically be done?
    The track’s natural limitations simply reduce flexibility for further runoff space extensions.

    1. There is nothing natural about a perfectly straight mound as there is next to the Kemmel straight. There’s plenty of room to widen the track area and simply push the footpath 15 meters back.

      However, it’s also a bit of a distraction. There are thousands of miles of straights on tracks the world over where a car can theoretically bounce back unto the track. The more pertinent question is why this race was even going on. Visibility was non-existent, it was – as I understand it from reports – a one-lap shootout, in a huge field of overpowered F3 cars with young guys all desperately trying to make their mark in the racing world. Between taking a considered risk to have racing, and setting things up for failure, this decision by race control swung way towards the wrong side of that balance.

      Unfortunately, those anxious to avoid blame will no doubt redirect attention towards the track because its become commonplace to complain about Spa* and it provides the with an easy out, but this could just as easily happen at any other track. There are plenty of places at the Red Bull Ring where the barriers are just a meter or two away from the track edge, too.

      *There’s even people talking about Eau Rouge and Raidillon as if that has anything to do with it. This happened way further down the track.

  3. That crash wasn’t even at Eau Rouge or Raidillon, It was further down the track a bit after the right hand kink and caused more by poor visibility rather than the track layout.

    Seemed like he made contact with someone in the spray at the kink, Spun and ended up broadside across the track and a car behind didn’t see him and T-Boned his car at the cockpit area.

    I guess drivers blaming Eau Rouge haven’t seen the accident.

    1. I will say this but it perhaps highlights how right drivers anthe FIA were about not starting the 2021 F1 race with similar poor visibility.

      Shows that how drivable the track is and how great the tyres are at handling the conditions is not and should not be the only consideration because clearly if drivers can’t see through the mist/spray it’s just as dangerous if not more so as drivers have less control. You back off in those conditions and the car behind can’t see and he’s running into the back of you (Senna/Brundle at Adelaide 1989 for example).

    2. The FIA will be testing wet weather spray guards at Silverstone on 13 July. Measures are being undertaken to improve visibility.

      1. @uzsjgb I have my doubts they will do much given how spray is just as big an issue in categories with cars that feature covered wheels.

        Spray was a huge issue at Le Mans a few weeks ago for example and all the cars that race there have the wheels covered.

    3. Indeed, it speaks well of Stroll that he chose to talk about it without being prompted, but his comment was off the mark.

  4. The question for me is given how conditions hadn’t improved why bring the safety car in for a 1 lap shoot out?

    Was it another example of rushing things to ensure a green flag finish?

    1. Seems so and I’m guessing the SC was for a previous incident, not because of the conditions like when they ran 19 laps behind it in fuji 2007.

  5. Combing responses to a bunch of a reactions I’ve seen.

    [they should ban wet racing at Spa]

    I’d say that’s up to the drivers to decide. Besides, there hasn’t been a single death at Spa in the modern F1 era.

    Should we arrest people for free climbing or ban the Isle of Man TT?

    [F1 wouldn’t have raced in those conditions]

    That’s not saying much. Since 2019 and especially under Wittich, the tiniest new variable can and usually does trigger an SC. I don’t see any reason why there shouldn’t be races if the tires can clear enough water to avoid hydroplaning. F1 has lost its way by letting people who have never raced before turn it into the most neutered series. It used to represent the pinnacle of not just tech and drivers, but driving in varying conditions.

    We race in full wet conditions in both SCCA and my vintage racing series without Techpro barriers, kevlar survival cells and medical helicopters. One of the reasons we race is because of the danger. Not for the danger, but knowing the fact that racing well involves some level of danger/risk (you can race with no risk if you don’t care about winning)

    [they’ve radically changed that section multiple times to make it safer. should more be done?]

    Sadly, racing involves risk no matter how much runoff, how many SAFER barriers, etc. Ironically, there’s much more risk in both lower formula levels and even amateur racing because they typically don’t have safety cars for gravels or wet weather and they don’t have anything like the protection of F1 survival cells.

    1. F1 has lost its way by letting people who have never raced before turn it into the most neutered series. It used to represent the pinnacle of not just tech and drivers, but driving in varying conditions.

      Listen to Jackie Stewart sometime, he’d point out that what it represented was a lottery and the lucky ones lived to tell the tale.
      Yes, there are risks, but some you don’t have to take.

  6. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
    1st July 2023, 22:49

    Obviously visibility was a big contributory factor here, but surely there must be a way to stop cars bouncing back onto the track?
    Moving the barriers back would help. Anyone out there have any other ideas?

    1. Yes, definitely moving the barriers back would help, however do you always wait for a fatal crash before moving barriers? Because there’s a handful of close barriers in f1, and that would be a lot of changes, also on other tracks.

      1. The corollary to that is that any city circuit should be banned since any damaged car stays on track.

  7. I personally don’t understand why the safety cells of the lower formula cars aren’t built to the same standards as F1 cars. Yeah the cars would be heavier as a result, but so what?

    1. Likely cause it would bounce the cost of a competitive F2 drive from $5,000,0000 to $8,000,0000. Have most junior formula deaths been due to intrusions or decelerations? If intrusions, you can make them safer very cheaply by adding tubed caging.

  8. Freak accident and just a coincidence it hapened on this same track.
    This could easily have happened on any circuit with fast flowing corners or curves.
    Very unfortunate and sad for the young man.

  9. Coventry Climax
    2nd July 2023, 2:27

    @keithcollantine and @clairecottingham:
    Can we at least do the guy the courtesy of spelling his name correctly?
    The only capital in his last name is the ‘H’, even if you’d start a new sentence with it.
    There’s lots of names like that in the Netherlands, e.g. ‘van de Berg’, ‘van ‘t Laar’, ‘de Beer’ and many more, and these ‘inserts’ are always in lower case. It’s even in the official name of the political capital of the Netherlands: ‘s Gravenhage, otherwise known as Den Haag or, in English, The Hague.
    You have sufficient dutch readers and subscribers to take notice. Thanks.

    1. Not quite.

      It’s Dilano van ‘t Hoff, but without the first name or initials it’d be Van ‘t Hoff.

      Same with De Vries.

  10. greasemonkey
    2nd July 2023, 2:30

    If you have ever raced in real rain before, and had to navigate for your life based on memory and faint tail lights (and maybe bright paint), you know the logical answer. For me, I’ve stopped racing in significant rain that affects visibility. At all. Not worth it. I never want to risk my safety again on little red flickers through a grey blanket. But I have that choice. Racing is not my career.

    I hate to say that though. Rain racing is a great spectacle. But if you have done it, you know how insane it is.

    1. greasemonkey
      2nd July 2023, 2:37

      Put another way…I know we all think in all kinds of things, even not racing, on footage: “oh, it cannot be that bad in real life”.

      For this, rain visibility in racing, the in car footage is, if anything, not as bad as real life. (and the visors are a whole other nightmare that footage doesn’t cover)

      It really is that bad.

    2. If you have ever raced in real rain before, and had to navigate for your life based on memory and faint tail lights (and maybe bright paint), you know the logical answer. For me, I’ve stopped racing in significant rain that affects visibility. At all. Not worth it. I never want to risk my safety again on little red flickers through a grey blanket. But I have that choice. Racing is not my career.

      It was Jackie Stewart’s career, he just decided he liked living more than racing. It seems you have something in common – limits.

  11. I have raced at Spa, and other tracks, in these conditions and it’s ridiculous. You literally can’t see a thing. You are speeding into a wall of white. Can’t see any other cars, even those five feet in front.
    The bottom line is that the safety precautions the FIA (and its national subsidiaries) take for F1, F2, WEC, do not exist in the lower classes. I have been “forced” to race in conditions where F1 would never run.
    It’s not the track, it’s the officials and their decision making.

    Spa Radillon is mega, one of the best sequences in motorsport, rivalled only by Maggots/Beckets/Church
    Changing it would be sacrilege.

    1. Those site needs edit function. Should say “Spa Eau Rouge/Radillon”

  12. Abies de Wet
    2nd July 2023, 10:32

    Nothing wrong with Racetrack… Drivers Always push their Luck…

  13. A car got T-boned in rainy conditions with poor visibility because of the spray. Changing the track layout would be a knee jerk reaction that would not have prevented Dilano’s unfortunate freak accident.

    Motor racing is a dangerous sport: Not only because of the physical forces generated by the track layout, but also because of fellow racing drivers pushing you to the edge, your ego, and natural weather conditions. It is a fascinating mix that gives real world motor racing the edge to SIM racing.

  14. I know many are stating ‘Changing the track won’t help’, but what you need to realise is reducing the approach speeds CAN of course help. This means less spray, more time to react, better visibility over the crest. It’s a knock-on effect.

    1. Explain what it means reducing speeds.. transforming all straights into corners?

Comments are closed.