By Vlad Roman,
General Manager, Smart Games

After the stage in Hungary, Max Verstappen’s home circuit and the last stage of the first half of the championship follow only one week away.

Unfortunately, on the Spa circuit, less than a month ago, the Dutch pilot Dilano Van’t Hoff, only 18 years old, died after a terrible accident that took place at the European Regional Formula Championship. The rainy and foggy weather conditions during the race caused a first skid by the young Dutch driver who spun on the track and was hit hard at high speed by the driver behind him.

Just 4 years ago Anthoine Hubert died on the same circuit during the Formula 2 race, two fatal accidents within a few years; raise big questions about the safety of the circuit, otherwise famous for its changeable and capricious weather, which led Lewis Hamilton and Lance Stroll to call for the Belgian track to be rebuilt.

The rest of the F1 drivers said on Thursday that the track at Spa is not that dangerous, Max emphasized that “There are always things you can do better. But we also compete in Monaco and I think it’s much more dangerous there than here. But we drive there because it’s considered safe enough. Accidents happen, unfortunately.” The Spaniards Alonso and Sainz had a similar opinion, but both point out that the first priority must be safety, the circuit is wonderful, driving in the rain is more fun than on dry but you are driving almost blindly which can lead to dangerous situations.

Verstappen concluded: “I don’t think it’s really related to the track, yes there are dangerous corners and in the rain the risk is always higher… If you can fly, then you can fly and if it’s too wet, it’s too wet.”

The circuit at Spa-Francorchamps remains the longest on the Formula 1 calendar at 7.004km, ahead of the modern models of Jeddah, Las Vegas and Baku. But before it was twice as long: 14.9 kilometers, to be exact. Designed in 1920, the original route was laid out on public roads between the towns of Francorchamps, Malmedy and Stavelot. This incredibly fast circuit also became increasingly dangerous as speeds increased, and in 1979 it was redeveloped to create the shorter track known today. Numerous minor changes have been made since then, but several sections have their roots in the original circuit, the most famous of all being the epic Eau Rouge and Raidillon uphill sequence. This undulating, rollercoaster-like circuit remains one of the most difficult in Formula 1, with every lap subjecting the tires to high forces from almost every direction. The car setup is also a complicated trade-off between optimizing straight-line speed and maximum cornering downforce.

New for this year, Spa is the third Sprint race venue this season, following Baku and Spielberg, with a Sprint Shootout on Saturday morning followed by a 100km race in the afternoon. With just an hour of free practice ahead of Friday’s qualifying the teams will have little time to prepare the cars, especially as the length and layout of the circuit makes it difficult to set up the cars, more pressure for corners or less for acceleration?

Pirelli brought 13 tires for the stage in the configuration C2 for hards, C3 for mediums and C4 for softs, of course accompanied by green – intermediate and blue tires for rain.

The rain on Friday motivated the FIA to announce that if the qualifications do not take place, the order of departure on the starting grid for the race on Sunday will not be formed according to the results of practice but according to the order of the world championship. Fortunately, both practice and qualifying took place in rainy conditions, with some delays and incidents. Albon and Gasly skidded in the Bus Stop chicane, Zhou went out on the gravel and Sargeant lost control of the Williams in Le Combes locking wheels hit the barrier and got stuck on the track causing a 10 minute interruption to practice.

Max didn’t really go out on the circuit in practice, he completed only two untimed laps after which he retired to the pits. Red Bull made the decision to change his gearbox and because they had already changed 4 boxes previously they will have a penalty of 5 positions on the starting grid.

Q1 started late due to heavy rain, all drivers put on rain tires for Q2 to start with intermediates and later put on dry tyres.

(to be continued in the next issue)

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