Max Verstappen brushed aside safety concerns for the 2023 Belgian Grand Prix with rain likely on all three days, less than a month after the death of Dilano van ‘t Hoff at a Formula Regional race at Spa.
On a sprint weekend in Belgium, weather forecasts for Friday and Saturday have the likelihood of rain above 80% while it’s still around 50% on Sunday meaning there’s the prospect of multiple meaningful sessions being washed out.
However, with Van ‘t Hoff‘s death coming less than four years after Anthoine Hubert was killed in an F2 race at Spa, Verstappen defended the circuit’s safety record.
“Honestly, I don’t think it’s really track-related,” Verstappen told the media. “You have dangerous corners yes and in the wet, there is always more risk.
“But I think everyone is competent enough to make the right calls. If you can drive, you can drive and if it’s too wet, it’s too wet.
“There are always things that can be done better, but we are also racing in Monaco, which I think is way more dangerous than here. But we race there because it’s deemed safe enough.”
Verstappen was born and raised in Belgium on to the Dutch border, but competes for the Netherlands as he “I actually only lived in Belgium to sleep”.
Spray worst it’s ever been
Verstappen was the beneficiary of the 2021 Belgian GP washout, where no racing was possible but the pack completed a lap behind the safety car to allow some points to be awarded for a ‘race’ having taken place.
On a borderline farcical afternoon for F1, fans and drivers sat for an interminably long wait of over three hours before trailing around on two parade laps to get the race into the record books as the shortest in the history of the sport.
But Verstappen said the problem of dangerous spray has existed his whole career. One of his first legendary drives was the 2016 Brazilian GP where he scythed through the wet at Interlagos to finish third, looking like he was on a dry track compared to most of the rest of the grid.
“I think when we went to the bigger tires that makes it worse, because there’s more displacement” Verstappen added. “And just the shape of the car, it’s so big you have more sprayed, it’s worse than it was in 2016.
“But in 2016, it was also bad. I remember the race in Brazil, where I was in the back after the pit stop, the whole straight I kept it flat but I didn’t see anything.
“By knowing where you’re going from all the other laps, you just keep it pinned, but there would have been someone standing you would have just been driven through it. So it’s bad, but it has been bad for a very long time.
“Accidents happen unfortunately and honestly when you look back at the accident that happened it’s extremely unfortunate the way it happened.
“It’s just a bit unlucky in a way as well that it happens at Spa, two times quite close to each other.”