Carlos Sainz calls for safety at Spa: Don’t fall to the pressure

The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps has come under increased scrutiny of late

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Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz has called for safety to be prioritised over the racing, ahead of the 2023 Belgian Grand Prix.

The race is anticipated to be wet throughout the weekend and the conditions presents a difficult challenge for a high-speed circuit with limited visibility and blind corners.

Spa-Francorchamps was struck by tragedy earlier in the year when Dilano van ‘t Hoff lost his life, following a crash in the Formula Regional championship. The incident saw several other drivers injured when van ‘t Hoff lost control of his car at the exit of Radillon corner before being struck in the side by a competitor.

The race had gone ahead in torrential conditions and mirrored an accident that saw Anthoine Hubert lose his life in 2019, despite the corner being re-profiled for added safety between the fatalities.

“If I can see in the car, then I will recommend to the race director that we try to run,” Sainz said to the media. “At the same time, if you cannot see then that is leaving everything down to luck and fate.

“We need to learn our lessons recently and don’t fall to the pressure of having to run, because it’s the right thing for the sport if the conditions are not safe enough.”

Formula 1 previously cancelled the Grand Prix in 2021 when torrential conditions rained off the race, but received criticism for the lack of a refund given to spectators as authorities cited a handful of laps behind the safety car as showing that the race had technically commenced.

The day prior Lando Norris walked away from a scary crash, also at the high-speed and blind Eau Rouge-Radillon sequence, in qualifying that wrecked his McLaren. The moment led to Sebastian Vettel to slam race control for allowing cars to run.

With the number of close-calls and, sadly, tragic accidents adding up, it is imperative for F1 to prioritise safety above entertainment.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. during 2022 Belgian Grand Prix | Pool via REUTERS/Johanna Geron

Sprint Races compromising safety?

With the Belgian GP being a sprint weekend, there will be limited time for teams to dial in their set-up conditions – which may further be limited by the rain.

Teams will get one hour of practice before qualifying sets the grid for Sunday’s main race, and from then on cars are locked in Parc Ferme meaning that their set-ups can only be tweaked instead of broadly changed.

Sainz suggested that there could have been some poor decision-making from F1 and the FIA.

“On a sprint weekend, there are only 60 minutes’ practice,” Sainz added. “It’s one of the most difficult tracks to set-up the car with the compression of Eau Rouge, ride-heights and [suspension] stiffness and they give us only 60 minutes – and it will probably be wet.

“We will not even know how to set-up the car if the race is dry on Sunday, so they’ve chosen a very tricky circuit to go for a sprint.

“It could be spectacular and offer some good racing, but also tricky for the set-up and preparation.”

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