Formula One: Verstappen, Hamilton defend Spa course after driver death

AFP , Thursday 27 Jul 2023

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton spoke out on Thursday in defence of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit following a death on the track last month.

F1
British driver Lewis Hamilton (R) is congratulated by Red Bull Racing's Dutch driver Max Verstappen on his pole position after the qualifying session at the Hungaroring race track in Mogyorod near Budapest on July 22, 2023, ahead of the Formula One Hungarian Grand Prix. Photo: AFP

 

Verstappen suggested it was less dangerous than Monaco, the slowest track on the Formula One calendar.

Red Bull's double world champion instead the focus should be on avoiding racing in dangerously wet weather conditions instead of blaming any particular track.

He spoke out during news briefings ahead of this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix at the sprawling and fast Spa circuit set in the forests of the Belgian Ardennes.

"I don't think it is track related," he said.

"There are dangerous corners, yes, and in the wet there are always more risks. Everyone is competent enough to make the right calls. If it is too wet, it is too wet."

The current debate about the safety of Spa follows the death earlier this month of 18-year-old Dutch racer Dilano van 't Hoff in an incident at the start of the Kemmel Straight, metres from where Frenchman Anthoine Hubert was killed in a F2 crash in 2019.

Weather similar to the rain that played a part in both accidents is forecast for the region this weekend, prompting some paddock observers to suggest the circuit may not be suitable for the sport in wet conditions

Some have called for changes to the Eau Rouge-Raidillon section, despite redevelopments of that area in recent years.

"It is not something you can ever let into your mind," said seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton, who has won four times at the Belgian Grand Prix.

"But [I] trust in what the FIA are doing. I don't think we would be here if they didn't think we would be safe. I trust in them as they have done such incredible work over the last couple of decades. I trust them to make the right decisions going forward," he added.

Verstappen, who has declared Spa his favourite track, is chasing a Belgian hat-trick and an eighth consecutive victory this weekend.

"There are always things that can be done better," he said. "We are racing in Monaco, which is a lot more dangerous than here, but we race there because it is deemed safe enough," the Dutch driver said.

"Accidents happen, unfortunately. When you look back at the accident, it was extremely unfortunate the way it happened. There is not a lot you can do or change for it to be a lot safer.

"There are other tracks where you can have a crash and bounce back onto the track and there's low visibility and that can happen again. It was unlucky, in a way, that it happened at Spa twice, both close to each other."

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