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What's Next for the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps?

By: Shaelyn Winters

Edited By: Kylie Augis

Courtesy of Formula 1 on Twitter

There is always an inherent risk of danger when competing in a car that races against nineteen others at high speeds. When there is a history of fatality that continues to emerge at the same location, however – there is a need to reconsider the necessity of the track, regardless of its admiration amongst fans.

The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Stavelot, Belgium has catered to motorsport since the early 1920s. It hosted the first ever 24 Hours of Francorchamps in 1924 and its first Formula 1 Grand Prix in 1925. Overtime, the circuit has gained a reputation for being exceedingly unsafe following a multitude of injuries and fatalities, which has prompted numerous track alterations over the years. There has been a longstanding discussion regarding the safety and well-being of drivers at the circuit, specifically regarding the stretch of track which includes the Raidillon curve and Kemmel straight. This segmented zone is prone to accidents as drivers find themselves repelling off of the walls and into oncoming traffic. Unfortunately, this has been the fate of two drivers in the last four years.

The Tragic Passing of Dilano Van ‘t Hoff and Anthoine Hubert

Conversations surrounding the well-being of drivers at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps re-emerged following the passing of 18-year old Dilano Van ‘t Hoff early Saturday. The Dutch driver competed with MP Motorsport in the Formula Regional European Championship. With heavy downpour significantly impeding the driving conditions, Van ‘t Hoff spun out at the beginning of the Kemmel straight exiting the Raidillon curve. The repelling nature of the track forced his car into oncoming traffic, to which he was impeded by Adam Fitzgerald. In the early afternoon, several announcements were made regarding the drivers’ passing, including one on the Spa-Francorchamps Twitter page: “The community of 24 Hours of Spa & Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is devastated by the news that Formula Regional EU by Alpine driver Dilano van ’t Hoff lost his life in an accident during this morning’s race. We express our deepest condolences to his family, friends and team.”

Dilano Van ‘t Hoff, Courtesy of Formula 1 on Twitter

Anthoine Hubert, Courtesy of Formula 1 on Twitter

Anthoine Hubert

As previously mentioned, this is not a new occurrence at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps: Anthoine Hubert experienced a similar fate four years earlier. Hubert was a 22-year-old motorsport driver who competed with BWT Arden in the FIA Formula 2 Championship. In 2019, Hubert, in an attempt to steer clear of Giuliano Alesi’s stalled car, collided with Ralph Boschung on the right side of the Raidillon curve. His car backfired onto the track and was eventually struck by Juan Manuel Correa. It was determined that Hubert had passed away as a result of the accident.

The Future of Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Formula 1

Following the passing of Hubert, the FIA endorsed alterations to the track, which included increasing the length of the run-off area while also deploying gravel at the Raidillon curve to limit drivers repelling back onto the track. Additionally, they also established greater regulations regarding the design of the car to prevent further accidents. Yet, despite these readjustments being implemented at the beginning of the 2022 season, the recent passing of Van ‘t Hoff puts into question whether Spa-Francorchamps still lives up to its menacing reputation. On Saturday, Lance Stroll spoke to the media regarding the devastating loss of both Van ‘t Hoff and Hubert and the ongoing concerns from the Formula 1 community regarding track modifications to Spa-Francorchamps. With the Belgian Grand Prix occurring in just three weeks, concerns for both his own and his peers' safety are especially valid and should prompt important conversations within the organization.

Additionally, on Wednesday morning, Formula 1 announced the extended use of the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps for the 2024 season. With a substantial history and great admiration amongst fans for the circuit, it is questionable whether it will ever be removed from the sport altogether. If one thing is for certain – it is that the safety of the drivers should take precedence above everything – and this should be the leading factor in determining how Formula 1 moves forward.

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