Horror crashes put spotlight on iconic corner

3 weeks ago 14
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Proposed changes to Spa's Eau Rouge-Raidillon complex should leave the iconic corners as they are, according to Australian F3 driver Calan Williams.

The 21-year-old became the latest to be involved in a potentially serious accident on that stretch of the Belgian circuit, during Saturday's F3 race.

It's the same spot where F2 driver Anthoine Hubert was killed in a crash in 2019, while Williams F1 reserve driver Jack Aitken was seriously injured during the Spa 24 Hours four weeks ago.

Last weekend's meeting saw Friday's W Series race marred by a six car crash at the corner, which resulted in two drivers being sent to hospital, while F1 qualifying on Saturday had to be stopped after McLaren's Lando Norris had a huge accident at over 250 km/h.

Australia's Calan Williams crashed heavily during the Belgian F3 race. (Kayo)

Williams' accident, the fifth serious crash in two years at the same spot, comes as drivers call for change. Guanyu Zhou, who is currently second in the F2 championship, is one who wants the track modified.

"Man ... Eau Rouge corner in Spa needs to making a change," he tweeted.

"Don't want to go too deeply into it but when every race weekend we see a huge incident involved in the same corner, we can't just ignore it and move on."

Williams' crash came through no fault of his own, after Amaury Cordeel was involved in an incident in front of him, leaving the Australian with nowhere to go.

Two drivers were taken to hospital after this horror crash during qualifying for the W-series race in Belgium. (Getty)

"Two cars in front tangled, and by the time all the cars in front of me had decided which way they were going, it was too late for me to see what was happening and react," Williams told Wide World of Sports.

"When the cars dive either side there's really only 10 or 15 metres between me and the stranded car.

"The instant reaction is to hit the brakes, which meant that when I hit him, it wasn't a t-bone, but instead we both kept spinning. Neither of us had a really sudden stop, which is the thing you want to avoid."

Of most concern about the corner is the likelihood for cars to bounce off the tyre barriers back onto the track. Norris crashed into the left hand wall, but ended up across the track on the right hand side. Herbert was killed in 2019 when his car bounced off the tyre barriers on the right, leaving his near-stationary car to be hit by Juan Manuel Correa.

The Eau Rouge-Raidillon section of the track is one of the most iconic images on the F1 calendar. (Getty)

"I don't think anyone wants to see the corner fundamentally changed," Williams explained.

"It's a huge part of the circuit's history and identity. The only changes that we would be likely to see would be changes to the run-off area.

"When you think of Spa, you think of that corner. It's the circuit's signature. It's the most challenging corner, but also one of the most incredible experiences on a racetrack.

"There's a lot of people voicing their concerns about the safety of the corner, but in my opinion the issue is the run-off, not the corner itself."

Williams was full of praise for the medical staff, who were on the scene almost immediately, although he was able to climb out of the car unaided.

"The initial hit, the medics told me was a hit of 28G, so it set off the medical sensor in the car, and they were on the scene really quickly," he said.

Lando Norris crashes heavily in appalling conditions during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix. (Kayo)

"When I got into the medical car, I mentioned to them how quickly they got to me, and they said, 'Not as quick as we'd like.'

"But they were great, before I got out of the car they were making sure I relaxed, to make sure I didn't have any pain in my back or neck.

"It was a bit of a shock, that's for sure, when all of a sudden you have a car stopped right in front of you and you're going pretty quick. In the dry it would have been about 250 km/h there, in the wet it was still probably over 200 km/h."

Organisers have already announced plans for circuit modifications in 2022, with the run-off area at Eau Rouge-Raidillon expected to be included in the changes.

And while Norris' crash in F1 qualifying naturally drew the most attention over the weekend, Sky Sports commentator and former driver, Martin Brundle, pointed out the element of danger is impossible to eliminate.

Brundle can speak with some authority on the matter, his then-teammate, Stefan Bellof, was killed at the corner in 1985.

"That's why 70-thousand people are here today, they're watching heroes," Brundle said.

"They're watching very brave racing drivers fighting the track and fighting the elements, and it's why millions around the world watch it. They're gladiators in the cars.

"You can't take away the risk. You can stop motor racing and have everyone stay home, but if you're going to have challenging race tracks you're going to have incidents."

It's a view shared by Williams.

"Obviously no-one likes to see injuries or serious accidents, and obviously steps should be taken to minimise the risk, but in the end, no matter what you do, there's going to be danger," he said.

"It's one of those things where you do the absolute best you can to make it safe, but you understand that some risk will always be present."

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