The tragic accident that claimed the life of Dilano van ‘t Hoff occurred miles away from the Red Bull Ring, but the Formula 1 drivers expressed their condolences and concerns following the news of the Dutchman’s death. They spoke with eloquence and thoughtfulness, and at the start of the grand prix won by Max Verstappen, a minute of silence was held and the F1 drivers wore black armbands in honor of van ‘t Hoff. Any motorsport fatality is devastating and warrants a thorough investigation, but with F1 returning to Spa in three weeks and the memories of Anthoine Hubert’s death there in 2019 still fresh, there is now specific scrutiny on that track.
The F1 drivers had three main reactions to van ‘t Hoff’s death, all aimed at preventing similar incidents in the future. The first suggestion revolves around the placement of barriers. Charles Leclerc recommended that tracks with high speeds should have walls positioned further away from the track to prevent cars from bouncing back onto the track after collision. While Spa has made improvements since Hubert’s death, van ‘t Hoff’s crash happened in a different section of the track, suggesting that more work needs to be done in that area.
Max Verstappen agreed with Leclerc and emphasized that barrier positioning issues are not unique to Spa. Verstappen pointed out that the dangerous corners of Eau Rouge and Raidillon are just as concerning, but he also highlighted the upcoming race in Jeddah where blind corners pose a significant risk. He believes that blame cannot solely be placed on the track and that the decisions made by race control, such as restarting races in heavily wet conditions, should also be examined.
Sergio Perez added to the discussion by emphasizing the importance of considering visibility in race control decisions. He stated that race directors may be influenced by fans and social media, leading to races being held despite poor visibility. While track conditions are certainly essential, Perez believes that visibility should be the most crucial factor to consider.
Another aspect that needs improvement is the issue of spray affecting visibility for modern single-seaters. Charles Leclerc highlighted how the amount of spray being produced by cars has increased due to higher downforce, making it difficult for drivers to see ahead. The FIA is currently developing wheel arch-like devices to address this problem. A test will be conducted after the British Grand Prix, where Mercedes and McLaren will assess the spray distribution with and without these arches. The FIA is keen to gather aerodynamic data to assess the impact of these devices on cars following behind.
In summary, the F1 drivers’ reactions to van ‘t Hoff’s death focused on three areas of improvement: barrier placement, race control decision making in wet conditions, and visibility issues caused by spray. They emphasized the need to minimize risks in motorsport and prevent similar tragedies from occurring again. While Spa has made some changes, there is still work to be done, and other tracks also require attention. The FIA‘s efforts to address visibility issues with the development of wheel arch-like devices should be commended, and a test will be conducted to assess their effectiveness. Ultimately, all parties involved are dedicated to improving safety in motorsport.