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Spa: A new era begins at the track

Renovations start at Spa, but are they in the name of safety?

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After announcing the €80 million renewal project last year, renovations have finally started at the Spa-Francorchamps Circuit. The circuit originally announced these changes ahead of the return of Motorbike racing but after a summer of crashes, the track’s safety is at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

The start of Spa’s long list of renovations began in the past few days started with the demolition of the iconic chalet that overlooks the Eua-Rouge and Radillion corner combination. The chalet will be replaced by a grandstand and VIP lounges in a plan to expand the circuit’s capacity in preparation for ‘project moto’.

There are also plans for a brand new 13,000 seat grandstand opposite the Old Pit Lane and the return of motorbikes means the return of gravel traps and extended run-offs in the more treacherous parts of the circuit, including the exit of the infamous Radillion.

Over the summer, Eau-Rouge and Radillion bore witness to major crashes starting with Williams Reserve Driver Jack Aitken’s horrifying crash at the top of Eau Rouge during his 24-hour of Spa Race. Following that, there was a vicious W-Series crash involving six cars which sent two drivers to hospital. McLaren’s Lando Norris also suffered a shunt into the barriers during Q3 which brought out red flags and led to fellow driver Sebastian Vettel to slow down and see if the young driver was alright. The corner has also had its fair share of historic crashes including Zanardi’s in 1993 and Villeneuve’s in 1999.

These more recent crashes have led to calls from the motorsport community to do something about the corner. Whether it be changing the corner itself, extending the run-off area, or changing the angle of the barriers. Many times F1 enthusiasts have expressed their dismay over the potential that the legendary corner be changed. However, after F2’s Anthoine Hubert fatal crash with Juan Manuel Correa in 2019, it cannot be argued with that the corner is overly dangerous.

Returning to the circuit after Hubert’s crash has always rekindled the safety debate. Drivers such as Callum Illot, whose teammate Davide Rigon was involved in the 24-hours of Spa crash, has called out for safety changes saying “enough is enough”.

Whilst other drivers don’t want to see a change to the corner itself, they do want better safety measures such as the proposed extended run-offs. The renovations have been made to encourage motorbike racing to return to the circuit but surely the changes will have been made in order to improve the safety of its current four-wheel drivers.

Feature Image: formula1.com (Sutton Motorsport)

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