The safety debate surrounding Spa’s legendary Eau Rouge-Raidillon sequence was reignited over the Belgian Grand Prix weekend following two serious accidents that took place within 24 hours of each other. 

A horrific six-car accident in Friday’s W Series qualifying session was followed by a terrifying high-speed shunt for McLaren’s Lando Norris in F1 qualifying on Saturday afternoon. 

They occurred a few weeks after Williams F1 reserve Jack Aitken suffered a broken collarbone and fractured vertebrae in a horrendous multi-car collision at the Spa 24 Hours race. 

Two years ago, Anthoine Hubert lost his life at the same section of track after being T-boned by Juan Manuel Correa during a Formula 2 race. 

While all the drivers involved in this weekend’s pair of scary shunts thankfully walked away unharmed, the incidents prompted more calls from drivers and fans that changes need to be made in order to avoid further serious crashes at Eau Rouge-Raidillon in the future. 

In Friday’s F1 driver meeting, the FIA moved to reassure drivers that changes already in the pipeline for next year - which includes revisions to some of the run-off areas - will make the run up the hill and blind crest safer. 

“The changes I saw yesterday [Friday] which are going to happen at the end of the year – so for us next year – I think they look very good,” said Red Bull’s Max Verstappen

“It is a very fast corner and when you go through it everything is fine. Of course the problem is when the barrier is so close and one person hits the barrier, it’s very easily that the car bounces back onto the track and onto the racing line and then you can collect another car.

“Even if it happens a little bit later, you go over the crest, it’s blind as well. I think as it was in the Spa 24 Hour race with the GT3 cars there was also a massive crash.

“I do think with the changes that are being made it will be a lot better. Racing is never going to be fully safe, everyone knows that, but of course there are a few things around that corner which can be helped and they are doing that so I think it’s going to be a lot better.”

2913753.0064.jpg

However, Verstappen’s championship rival, Lewis Hamilton, suggested that Eau Rouge should remain unchanged. 

“I think they’ve just got to get rid of the bump and then leave Eau Rouge as it is,” he said. “But they’ll do what they do. I don’t feel they need to spend the money.”

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz said Friday’s meeting had made the drivers feel “more calm” amid the fresh calls for changes to be carried out. 

“It’s very obvious that this corner has a fundamental issue that means that when you crash, first of all you crash very heavy, and second you crash back into the circuit,” Sainz said shortly after Norris’ crash. 

“In this kind of conditions, with the spray, if someone crashes in P2 and the guy coming in P17 doesn’t know, it’s an extremely dangerous situation.

“We as drivers, we have asked for changes, we have asked for reviewing this corner and we’ve been told that the FIA’s already on it, so we are more calm about it, but this year is going to be another tricky one.”

Charles Leclerc, who looked visibly shaken upon seeing footage of Norris’ accident in the paddock following his Q2 elimination, said he is hoping no more accidents occur before the forthcoming tweaks are made. 

“It was very scary for me to see, as for everyone, this crash at the same place where I've lost a friend two years ago," he said.

"It was incredibly good to see Lando walking out alone, out of the car.

"In terms of the track, they know that there is something there that needs to change, and the changes are planned for next year I think, which is good to know. Then for this season, I just pray for nothing to happen.”

210037-belgian-gp-2021-saturday-gallery.jpg

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso welcomed the changes but warned the risks associated with Eau Rouge cannot be completely removed. 

“We’ve been racing this configuration for many years and obviously we know that it’s a high-speed corner and we had some important accidents, it’s true,” the Spaniard explained. 

“I think the FIA is aware of this, we’ve been introducing new devices in the car, new reinforcements in the car. Now they plan to change the barrier on the inside, so there is continuous work on safety. That’s very welcome from a driver’s point of view and we all like this effort. 

“But it is always going to be a motorsport challenge. Zero risk, we will never reach, probably, but we are going in the right direction - that’s for sure. So I’m happy.”

Alpine teammate Esteban Ocon revealed he was the first driver to bring up the matter in Friday’s briefing, and believes the revisions will help improve the situation. 

“I was the first driver to ask in the drivers’ meeting, asking what was going to be next because I was not aware of any changes yet, and we’ve seen too many crashes,” Ocon said. 

“We’ve seen obviously Anthoine in 2019, but we’ve seen Jack this year, we’ve seen W Series, I mean it just keeps going. So we need to do something to make that corner safer.

“I think all the drivers respect this corner anyway knowing how dangerous it is, but yes the runoffs at these speeds are too close and basically the danger is for the car to bounce and go back on the track like it did today, across the track again.

“Things are gonna be taking in place, moving the mountains on the left, going maximum further on the right. I’m looking forward to seeing how the construction is going to go. But if it is, it’s gonna help.”

Meanwhile, McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo believes Eau Rouge will remain an iconic challenge even after it is altered. 

"As exciting as Eau Rouge is, it does tend to have big accidents almost every year," he said. "If it is not an F1, it'll be another category. That is where it is a bit too much.

"I think the corner will still be scary and exciting even if they push the barrier a few meters back. It is also the way the cars bounce back on the track - that is another danger.

"It is kind of just realigning for safety. I don’t think it is changing the pure character of the corner. It is just removing any of the unnecessary danger. No one benefits when the danger is pointed in that direction."

2021BelgianGrandPrixSaturdayGP2112_100359_MS26058.jpg