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Formula 1

Why Ricciardo’s so convinced by planned Eau Rouge changes

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

McLaren Formula 1 driver Daniel Ricciardo has backed planned changes to the run-off at Eau Rouge and Raidillon to remove the corners’ “unnecessary danger” without changing their “pure character”.

Ricciardo’s team-mate Lando Norris had to have a precautionary hospital visit after a heavy qualifying crash at Eau Rouge, the second major accident there over the Belgian Grand Prix weekend.

A violent six-car accident occurred in W Series qualifying on Friday, while just a few weeks ago there was a major crash in the Spa 24 Hours GT race and it is only two years since Anthoine Hubert lost his life in a Formula 2 race at Spa when he crashed at Raidillon and was hit by another car as his rebounded into the run-off area.

Amendments are set to be made to the run-off area next year, which should extend it on both sides to stop cars hitting the barriers and ending up back on the track so easily.

The planned changes have drawn some criticism from those who believe the Eau Rouge/Raidillon combination should not be altered but Ricciardo believes the corners themselves will not be diluted but the consequences of a crash will be more proportional.

Daniel Ricciardo McLaren F1 Belgian GP Eau Rouge

“As exciting as Eau Rouge is, it does tend to have big accidents pretty much every year, if it’s not in F1 it’ll be in another category where there are big ones,” Ricciardo said.

“That’s where it’s a bit too much.

“The corner will still be scary and exciting even if they push the barrier a few extra metres back but it’s the way the cars then bounce back onto the track, that’s another danger.

“It’s just realigning the safety. I don’t think it’s changing the pure character of the corner. It’s removing any of the unnecessary danger.

“Nobody benefits when the danger is pointed in that direction.”

With the new run-off drivers will still be punished heavily for a mistake up the hill or over the crest, as the barriers are not moving enough to stop a car ending up in the wall at high speed.

“They buy a little bit more space, and also that changes the angle of impact so that’s also an important one,” said Ricciardo, who has seen “a couple of illustrations”.

“And then hopefully that doesn’t deflect the car back onto the track onto the racing line.”

Daniel Ricciardo McLaren F1

The issue of containment of cars that do crash there, to avoid them being thrown into the path of others, is key.

Although Sebastian Vettel pondered whether Spa should consider reprofiling Eau Rouge to make it slower there are no changes planned to the layout of the uphill corner itself and Ricciardo is certain the key characteristics will be retained.

“Eau Rouge will be the same,” said Ricciardo.

“Unless the corner ended up with endless run-off and it was kind of in an airfield somewhere, then maybe that extremely changes it!

“But if you’re moving the barriers a few metres here and there, the shape and the character of the corner, the compression, that all remains the same.

“If they started saying, ‘we’re going to change the apex kerbs and all of this’, and mess with the actual layout, then maybe I’ll be a little more concerned.

“But if it’s really just the barrier stuff, then I think I think we’re all good.”

Daniel Ricciardo McLaren F1 Eau Rouge Belgian GP

There is no indication that Spa’s trend of heavy accidents is threatening its place on the calendar but these corners do have an unusual combination of speed, visibility and barrier proximity.

Spa is one of F1’s classic venues and a favourite of the drivers so Ricciardo said it was everybody’s interests to make changes necessary to keep it around without going too far and subduing the experience.

“I’m still happy racing here,” said Ricciardo. “If they try to tweak and just make the track a bit safer then for sure [it’s fit for purpose].

“We all want to keep coming here, and we’re definitely not trying to get it removed from the calendar.

“But if we can help it remain on the calendar by adjusting some of these areas then we’ll do that because it’s a mega track.

“It’s still a very traditional circuit with some old-school characteristics and F1 still needs some of these on the calendar.”

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