George Russell believes the Spa-Francorchamps circuit remains safe enough in its current form and that identifying a solution to visibility problems in the wet is the biggest issue that must be addressed.
The home of the Belgian Grand Prix has come under fire in recent years after tragic accidents claimed the lives of Anthoine Hubert in a Formula 2 race in 2019 and FRECA driver Dilano van t’Hoff last month.
Despite acknowledging that Spa remains one of the more dangerous track configurations on the Formula 1 calendar, Russell believes the venue remains safe enough for racing.
“At the moment it’s sort of constant comms with the FIA following the tragic passing of Dilano in FRECA,” Russell said when asked to clarify the GPDA’s position on Spa.
“The two questions are is Spa safe enough and then it’s the question of the conditions. The fact is motorsport will always be dangerous when you’re travelling at these speeds. If you were to put a ranking of risk of all of the circuits, for sure Spa is one of the riskier circuits, along with Jeddah, along with Monaco, for example. Suzuka to a degree.
“Then when you’ve got a combination of the weather, it’s very challenging. It’s the visibility, we just have no visibility whatsoever. The way I describe it to try and give some perspective is driving down the motorway in pouring rain and turning your windscreen wipers off. That’s genuinely how it feels in the cockpit.
“There’s not really any short-term solutions, I personally think Spa is safe enough. We just need to find a solution for visibility.”
“We’ve spoken about it and I think between everybody we’ve concluded that we don’t think it needs [changing],” he added.
“They’ve made a lot of progress with the runoff, that’s probably the most important thing.”
The drivers have arrived in Belgium for the final race ahead of the summer break amid downpours and the weekend forecast displays that the rain is likely to stick around.
In 2021 the race was contentiously abandoned after only a handful of laps behind the Safety Car due to extreme weather conditions – but two years on, Russell, who scored his maiden podium that day, insists that it was the “correct decision”.
“For one single Formula 1 car to drive around, the conditions are safe enough and suitable enough to drive,” he explained. “But it’s when you’ve got 20 cars on track at once, and anybody from third position backwards literally cannot see from here to this wall, so you’re talking 20, 30, 40 metres.
“I felt like the incident that happened in FRECA, it was only really a matter of time before something like that happened. Drivers aren’t going flat out in the straight because they can’t see. Somebody gets rear-ended and then there’s a car in the middle of the track.
“Obviously to have a race cancelled is not perfect for anybody. But we don’t want to see a huge incident as we’ve just seen.”
The poor handling of that particular race eventually forced changes to be pushed through regarding the awarding of points for races not run under green flag conditions.
While it proved unpopular at the time, Russell says the FIA has a “big responsibility” this weekend to ensure that safety is prioritised in the event of bad weather intervening.
“I think fortunately the weather looks better on Sunday, so I think Sunday will be going ahead,” the Brit summarised. “But following recent events, I think the FIA have to be bold with their decisions when it comes to safety, when it comes to visibility.
“We know what the situation was two years ago, we don’t want it to be strung out as perhaps it was then. But as I said, we’re going to need some bold decisions.
“We want to race, everybody wants to race. When you’re going down that straight at 200 mph and you can’t see 50 metres in front of you, there will be huge incidents. They’ve got a big responsibility this weekend.”