Safety has surged to the forefront of discussions leading up to the Belgian Grand Prix. This comes on the heels of the tragic incident involving young driver Dilano van ‘t Hoff, who lost his life during a rainy Formula Regional European Championship at the circuit. Some have called on the FIA to adopt a more conservative stance regarding racing conditions.
However, F1 racer Max Verstappen argues for a pragmatic acknowledgment that visibility will inevitably suffer during rainfall. Mandating ideal visibility, according to Verstappen, is a futile endeavor. “It’s bad, but it has been bad for a very long time. So, I don’t think there is a lot at the moment that we can do about it,” he commented concerning the visibility issue with the current fleet of F1 cars.
Verstappen expressed confidence in F1 race director Niels Wittich‘s ability to make judicious decisions. He emphasized the importance of Wittich and the safety car’s input in establishing if a race can safely proceed. “We have spent quite a bit of time in briefings, and I think also from his side, he’s done quite a few races now,” Verstappen said. “I think he’d also listen to the safety car a bit, and I think he will know if it’s safe or not. But the visibility is going to be bad anyway. Otherwise, we cannot have any rain races anymore.”
He proceeded to explain that current regulations have exacerbated the poor visibility in wet conditions. The larger tyres and bigger design of the cars result in more water spray. “We went to the bigger tyres, which makes it worse, because there’s more displacement,” he mentioned. “Plus, just the shape of the car, it’s so big so you have more spray.”
Verstappen then reflected on a 2016 race in Brazil, wherein he endured a similar predicament. He managed to complete the whole straight despite nearly zero visibility, only by relying on his familiarity with the course.
Another point of contention has been the overall safety of the Spa circuit – the Eau Rouge/Raidillon complex, in particular, having witnessed the unfortunate demise of Anthoine Hubert in 2019. Verstappen, however, views other courses as posing higher risks. “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,” he stated.
According to Verstappen, accidents are inherently unfortunate, and some may occur in ways you least anticipate. He doesn’t see much reason or scope for drastic changes to improve safety. “I don’t think there’s a lot you can do or change for it to be a lot safer. Because there are also other tracks out there that if you have a crash, and you’re [flung] back onto the track, and there’s very low visibility, that can happen again,” he explained.