Bring back Eau Rouge chicane after driver deaths at Spa – Zhou

2023 British Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by

Alfa Romeo driver Zhou Guanyu has called for Spa-Francorchamps to reinstate the chicane at its famous Eau Rouge corner, which was last used almost 30 years ago, following a second fatality at the circuit in four years.

Formula Regional European Championship driver Dilano Van ‘T Hoff died in a crash at the circuit on Saturday. The tragic accident occurred after a late Safety Car restart, when Van ‘T Hoff spun at the Kemmel kink in streaming wet conditions, and was struck by the car of rival Adam Fitzgerald.

The 18-year-old MP Motorsport driver died as a result of the crash while Fitzgerald was hospitalised.

The crash brought back memories of the death of Anthoine Hubert during a race in 2019. The Formula 2 driver suffered fatal injuries after he was struck by Juan-Manuel Correa at Raidillon, just a few hundred metres prior to the scene of last week’s fatal accident.

Hubert’s crash, which occured in dry conditions, led to changes to the run-off areas around the Eau Rouge and Raidillon complex. However Zhou – who was Hubert’s team mate on the Renault team’s junior driver programme at the time of his crash, believes more drastic changes are needed to the configuration of Eau Rouge and Raidillon, which is one of the fastest and most famous corner sequences used in F1.

“From my side, the track layout needs to change,” Zhou told media including RaceFans at Silverstone. “I lost a friend of mine in 2019 – Anthoine – so it kind of hurts there.

“It’s an iconic corner, for sure, but just for safety, we’ve lost too many lives in the past and I think it’s time [for change].”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

A slow chicane was installed at the corner in 1994, in response to a series of serious crashes including the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at Imola. Zhou believes installing a chicane of that type at the corner would make it safer.

Spectators, Eau Rouge, Raidillon, Spa-Francorchamps, 2022
Eau Rouge and Raidillon form one of F1’s most famous sequences
“I saw some videos of, I think 1994, where there was a little slow chicane,” Zhou explained. “I think it’s the right way forward.

“I think the grandstand they can move backwards – they have space there. Still overtaking is possible, lap one, with the slipstream, but it’s a lower speed, so everything happens less straightforward.”

The lack of visibility from cars exiting Raidillon and onto the Kemmel Straight in full wet conditions is also a major safety concern, Zhou said.

“I think firstly, with the accident, they shouldn’t have restarted the race, because they did so many laps behind the Safety Car,” he said.

“It’s a bit like Suzuka last year for us. I didn’t know how we started the race. On lap one, I literally saw nothing. I was just guessing on the brake pedal where I should brake, starting further back on the grid – which is the case for the junior category. The visibility made people spin, they couldn’t see anything before a driver got T-boned.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Spa will hold the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of the month, supported by Formula 2 and Formula 3. Zhou believes the junior series should continue to race at the track, but said the difficulties posed by poor visibility need to be taken seriously.

“It depends on how much the spray is,” he said in response to a question from RaceFans. “Because you can’t base it on, let’s say, the Safety Car or the leader – you have to base it on the guy from P10 and downwards. That’s where you have the action and that’s where the visibility is really low. So we’d have to see.

“I’m sure Formula 1 and all the other categories are aware, but it’s too late. It’s happened in the past and a corner like that, you cannot see that much until you actually hit someone, which is not nice for us.”

Video: How Spa’s track layout has changed

Bringing the F1 news from the source

RaceFans strives to bring its readers news directly from the key players in Formula 1. We are able to do this thanks in part to the generous backing of our RaceFans Supporters.

By contributing £1 per month or £12 per year (or the equivalent in other currencies) you can help cover the costs involved in producing original journalism: Travelling, writing, creating, hosting, contacting and developing.

We have been proudly supported by our readers for over 10 years. If you enjoy our independent coverage, please consider becoming a RaceFans Supporter today. As a bonus, all our Supporters can also browse the site ad-free. Sign up or find out more via the links below:

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2023 British Grand Prix

Browse all 2023 British Grand Prix articles

Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

37 comments on “Bring back Eau Rouge chicane after driver deaths at Spa – Zhou”

  1. His view is good in principle, but I disagree with him on reinstating an artificial chicane, especially as this most recent fatal accident wasn’t even track-related.
    I also don’t know how that grandstand (the one in the small image that’s a recent past addition) could realistically get moved backwards, as it isn’t a temporary structure.

  2. How about Zhou just keeps his mouth shut and be happy these are not the 60’s anymore. If he thinks it’s not safe he can stay at home and the same applies to the rest of them. Keep Spa as it is.

    1. Yes. Why not take a break from “racing” and “move the grandstand backwards” yourself. Or see if you can get a Chinese GP to take place. The spray and mist will still be there and the cars will be going plenty fast enough to kill someone, even out of your poxy fun-sucking chicane.

    2. Zhou should only drive at the Chinese Grand Prix then he’ll be safe because the race never happens. They shoukd be looking at putting F1 on the Nordschleiffe not attempting to put chicanes on Eau Rouge

    3. Yes, they ruined Spa in 1978.

    4. While things were done after Anthoine’s death, the pity is now we see more should have been done. I had to deal with people who couldn’t see why they should make things safer or more secure when I worked as a bus driver. Time and time again we’d have to go over the same issue, and each time it was like talking to a brick wall. Zhou is correct to say these things. Now we have another death. Something needs to be done to make Spa a safer race track. My understanding is in both cases the crashed car bounced back onto the track, so changes need to be made either to reduce the speed of cars in that area or to reduce the possibility of a crashed car bouncing back onto the track. If they have moved the barriers back as far as they can, and have already installed the best barriers which will safely absorb the impact of a colliding car, then they need to reduce the speed of the cars. Also, there needs to be an automated alert system telling drivers to start braking because there’s a crashed car on the track. It needs to be automated to reduce the response time for the alert to get to the drivers in the cars. Since no one has said the radio in these cars doesn’t have the capability to transmit and receive data then I assume it does, meaning (software aside) there’s no practical reason why such a system can’t be utilised.

      1. Just onboard double yellow lights so full trottle isn’t possible … works wonders

    5. While not delicately stated, I agree.

      Hubert’s accident was a direct side effect to the safety improvements made to this section of the track. Perceived dangers discipline drivers. Anyone who watches races at the Nordschliefe or Monaco knows what I’m talking about. Meanwhile, asphalt runoffs only provoke them to always push 101% because there’s no immediate penalty, even if there’s a chance they’ll be penalized like (‘23 Austria GP). Instead of building up speed, they start by going too fast and working back from there.

      Furthermore, asphalt doesn’t trap cars, which is seen as a benefit, but it’s not in term of safety. Especially if they reach a barrier at an odd angle or bounce back on the track.

      Another massively important factor no one talks about is the angle of the barriers vs the distance. Having barriers further back helps some smaller crashes don’t happen, but in a big off it’s better to have barriers closer to the track but at a shallower angle than to build a deep pocket that ends in a 45-degree wall that deflects cars back onto the track. That’s what was present during Hubert’s crash on the left at the time of his fatal crash and was addressed in the reconstruction.

      A one lap restart in low visibility, heavy rain, a perception of low risk + the fact that racing involves danger is primarily responsible for the accident.

  3. Yes, because chicanes suck up all the spray and make it disappear.

    Come on Zhou, you had a good point about visibility and then you had to ruin it with this silliness about that awful 1994 chicane.

  4. Drivers today are snowflakes that are afraid of anything risky.

    They don’t want to drive if its wet, They want to ruin fast corners and don’t know how to drive with assistance or gimmicks.

    This is why we end up with so boring cookie cutter fkat and characterless awful tracks now.

    1. Couldn’t agree more.

  5. Jonathan Parkin
    6th July 2023, 19:28

    I did say this before but I will say it again. Should we not be more selective about which series race at Spa, so more experienced racing drivers only race on it.

    It is a dangerous track, but I’m feeling that since 2001 we’ve been slowly making it easier to drive on but the danger remains. Eau Rouge/Radillion for instance is now easy flat for instance, but back in the day it wasn’t. Jacques Villeneuve and Ricardo Zonta reduced their BAR’s to component form trying to prove this theory wrong in 1999

    1. I remember that well. Jacques kept trying to go flat and finally did. There was enormous impetus to do a comfort lift.

    2. Since the track has track days which feature anyone with a drivers license I don’t think skill is the issue. Besides, I don’t think these drivers are safer if they go to tracks with lower FIA grades.

    3. What is not a dangerous track?
      Any track can have a car parked in middle of it due to circumstances.

  6. If there’s one thing you can do that won’t spoil the magic of the Eau Rouge corner combo and make it safer, it’s to soften the curvature of Turn 4 (Raidillon) into the Kemmel Straight.
    Raidillon is a critical location for the Eau Rouge corner combination due to its tight corner radius.
    In the wet, it’s easy to lose grip on the exit of Raidillon, which is where the top speed of the Eau Rouge corner combination is achieved.

    1. The corner has already been ruined by re-profiling and too much downforce. It’s just a straight that looks like a turn on TV now. No bravery required. It’s not true for every race series though.

  7. I’ll get tonnes of grief for this, but I said this the other day. My caveat was that it should only be utilised in the rain, meaning that the speed over the top of Radillion would be roughly 80-100mph lower, easily reducing risk, even with spray (that would still be there, but less extreme, and with more reaction times and lower impact speeds).
    But the biggest problem would be a reluctance that the circuit layout could possibly change over the course of the weekend (ie: quali in dry using normal circuit, race in wet using chicane). To that I say, who cares, it’s the same for everyone. And if it gives us the chance of a race over 2 SC laps, F1 should learn to be flexible like it never is.

    The real solution is some way of stopping cars bouncing off the barriers and back on track, and done sort of better warning system on the steering wheel.

    1. If you put a chicane at Raidillon, the drivers still have to do the rest of the track.

      A car can fly off at Les Combes, hit the barriers on the little straight, bounce back and end up stationary at a 90 degree angle to the uncoming cars. Alonso knows, he did this in 2010.

      A car can also fly off at the exit of Pouhon, hit the barriers and bounce back unto the track. Giovinazzi and Russell will know, the former did so – the latter got hit by a flying wheel in 2020.

      The problem is visibility, not the track.

  8. Truckish cars and tractor-like tyres producing huge spray, but the fault lies on the track….

    Not to mention asking for a chicane when you already have Virage de l’Ancienne.

    Back in 1994, out of 3 serious accidents, one came from driver error; the fatalities came from mechanical failures. Yet the track gets permanently butchered and cursed forever.

    As Tywin Lannister character once said, “Madness… Madness and stupidity.”

    1. Oh, you’re the guy who hates open-wheel cars and would prepared F1 to look like LeMans prototypes, right? Hahaha, you’re funny :)

      1. Are you under the influence or something?

  9. Risk v reward. If there is someone who doesn’t want to risk it in those conditions someone else will. The first one won’t win but he will survive. The other won’t also win and will face the consiquences. Yes visibility is a major thing but if risk is the one which will cause most of the accidents. Too fast is too fast. Modern racing doesn’t know quitting. Lauda did it back in the day but imagine the horror in social media if Hamilton or Verstappen would come back to the pits just because they are afraid. Safety has come so far drivers feel invincible. It’s too much. In the end driver is the one who drives the car and if he/she is aquaplaning it is because he took it too far. We have seen awful conditions but racing has changed. We complain about not racing which is ok but drivers should think that too. We often see those who have nothing to lose to just go for it. That is the risk v reward thing and the guy who plays must pay the prize of the game. Sometimes you win sometimes you lose. Cards are on your hands. Russian roulette could be safer than racing F1 cars in torrential rain. Still many will choose the latter one.

  10. I’m just enjoying the beautiful photo of Hill’s FW16. Sweet.

    1994 was The Year of the Chicane.
    Barcelona, Montreal, Spa, Jerez, Estoril and Silverstone all gained temporary or permanent chicanes, for obvious reasons.

    1. I’m just enjoying the beautiful photo of Hill’s FW16. Sweet.

      Yeah, absolutely. Apart from how great F1 cars looked in that era – it takes a moment to adjust and realise that drivers’ helmets weren’t bigger back then, the cars were actually that much smaller.

    2. @unicron2002 – yeah, FW16 was quite a beauty. Whenever I picture an F1 car, those are usually the lines that come to mind. :)

  11. Look at the tone of many of these comments. Attacking Zhou because he likes to go home alive after each race. How dare he… Having raced the circuit in current F1, he also knows how small a challenge that section presents to a driver now, and how much risk comes with it if something goes wrong. Which it does there, regularly.
    Never mind the fact that a much tighter (and well designed) chicane in Eau Rouge could actually improve the circuit with the addition of an extra overtaking opportunity and reduction in the effective length of the Kemmel straight, which is currently too long.

    Let’s face it – Spa is not that far from simply needing to be retired from this type of racing. It has become a bit of a mini Nordshleife in terms of inherent risk, and, much like the Nordsleife, it isn’t even all that great of a race track. It’s a great driving circuit, but not a great racing circuit.
    They could spend $Billions upgrading the whole lot to function more safely in a wider range of conditions and with a wider range of cars (track realignment/asphalt-tarmac surface selection and post-processing/cambers/drainage/barrier types and placements/runoff extensions, etc), but that would just ruin the character of it. It would become Le Castellet with larger elevation changes.
    Is that what people really want?
    It might just be better for all to accept that F1 has engineered itself beyond the circuit and the climate it exists in, just like it has at many other circuits.

    1. Sure, modern F1 cars have outengineered themselves beyond the safety capability of a built-for-purpose racing circuit, but all these modern city tracks, Baku, Singapore, Miami, Las Vegas, and Saudi-Arabia’s “melted butter knife” are just fine and dandy.

      And lets not forget that all these tracks are just shining beacons of examples, of what a track that is good for racing looks like.

      You know…. if these tracks tried just a little bit harder, they could some day be as good as Hungaroring or Abu Dhabi.

      1. Hungaroring is one of the worst tracks on the calendar. I hope that’s what you meant.

    2. I don’t think anyone here wants drivers to die, or even for crashes to happen.

      However, there are some good discussion points here. We don’t want a knee jerk reaction either way.

      To me, though, putting a chicane in is the wrong plan. We’ve had this kind of reaction before, and it ruins the character of the tracks. I love Spa, it’s my favourite track on the calendar, but I’d rather see it dropped as being unsuitable than for it to be spoiled in this manner.

      Races should only be run on circuits which are suitable/safe for the cars being raced. It is looking more and more like Spa may not be suitable for modern single seaters.

      There is, of course, an alternative nobody has discussed: Make the cars more suitable for the circuits. Reduce the downforce they generate, and they will no longer be able to take such corners flat. Speeds will reduce overall, so the overall safety of all circuits will be improved. It’s likely that spray would be much less of a problem, so we would get more wet racing and fewer accidents in such conditions. And we would probably get closer racing, with more ability to overtake without artificial aids.

      F1 and other single seater series have become addicted to downforce. Maybe it’s time we got them into rehab.

    3. Spa hasn’t changed, the cars have. Including junior series. They’re too fast, have poor visibility (partly due to HANS which is an overall positive but not without cons), rely too much on downforce and are heavier too.


      It wasn’t at Spa that Zhou cleared the fence and broke his roll bar.
      It wasn’t at Spa that Bianchi was killed.
      It wasn’t at Spa that two marshals were killed in the 2000s.
      It wasn’t at Spa that Schumacher broke his leg.
      It wasn’t at Spa that Panis broke both of his legs.

      If F1 wants to ditch Spa because it can get more money elsewhere, they should just say so.

      1. some racing fan
        8th July 2023, 5:34

        Spa has changed a little since it was shortened in 1979- particularly the downhill straight next to the old pits and the area before the F1 pits.

  12. They are better off, having these youngsters that feel like they have prove every single meter they drive they have the potential to become the best in the world, in conditions where visibility will or is zero.

    Their skill levels plus mindless ambition is a recipe for disaster in those conditions.

  13. How about there be some consideration regarding the safety and power level of the lower classes of cars first?
    Also, extending the run-offs in the corners, and around the beginning of the Kemmel straight, shold be considered before destroying the track’s most iconic features. Why not just make all tracks be boring carparks like the snore fest that is Abu Dhabi?

    Spa is a legendary track and, whether we like it or not, the truth is that motorsport is dangerous and will probably never be risk free.

    I also believe that the hypocrisy of drivers and teams has now reached a completely new level. How can there be outcry at the danger of motorsport, and demands to neuter an iconic track, while simultaneously introducing brand new tracks that arguably are even more dangerous? (Looking at Saudi here).

    If Zhou and Babby-Stroll want F1 to be safe, they can take the Government sponsors and their daddies money and go drive their cars in the parking lot.
    I am sure the CCP and Papa-Stroll can afford one of these, should fir the talent and risk tolerance of the drivers better too:

    …yes, I am aware I am typing this from the comfort of my own couch.

  14. Señor Sjon
    7th July 2023, 9:48

    I wonder what Zhou had to say about the Saudi track. The incident at Spa could happen there as well with ease and have similar consequences.

    The crash didn’t even happen at Eau Rouge or Radillion, but at the small kink at the start of the Kemmel Straight. One of the easies solutions would be to have SC-restarts on the Kemmel Straight. Then they have a full lap to get used to the conditions in racing speed.

  15. Asphalt runoffs subconsciously invite drivers to keep it pinned while trying to avoid an incident. They think they will get around it and simultaneously gain an advantage. If it was gravel, it would never happen.

  16. some racing fan
    8th July 2023, 5:32

    This most recent fatal accident there didn’t even happen at Eau Rouge. It happened further up the Kemmel Straight.

Comments are closed.