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Russell leads calls on the sport to put driver safety first


Should the weather compromise safety, Grand Prix Drivers' Association director, George Russell is relying on the sport's powers that be to make the right decisions this weekend.

In the wake of the death of Dilano van 't Hoff earlier this month, F1 was already heading to the iconic Spa Francorchamps circuit under a dark cloud. However, with all three days of the weekend now threatening heavy rain, drivers are looking to the FIA and F1 to act responsibly, even if that means cancelling sessions or even the race.

"The two questions are whether Spa is safe enough and then it's the question of the conditions," Russell told reporters as the weekend got underway. "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," he continued, "along with Jeddah, along with Monaco, for example, and 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," he admitted, "I personally think Spa is safe enough. We just need to find a solution for visibility."

Two years ago, as the sport sought to recover in the midst of the pandemic, Spa was the scene of one of the sport's most embarrassing days as torrential rain led to a 'race' that was essentially just two laps behind the Safety Car.

"Two years ago, that was the correct decision to call the race off," said Russell. "For one single Formula One car to drive around, the conditions are safe enough and suitable enough to drive. 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," he continued, referring to van 't Hoff's crash, "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, then 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," he admitted. "But we don't want to see a huge incident as we've just seen."

"It is not something you can ever let into your mind," said Lewis Hamilton a five-time winner here. "But I]trust in what the FIA are doing.

"I don't think we would be here if they didn't think we would be safe," he added. "I trust in them as they have done such incredible work over the last couple of decades, I trust them to make the right decisions going forward."

"I don't think it is track related," said Max Verstappen, referring to the Eau Rouge complex that lies at the heart of the safety fears. "There are dangerous corners, yes, and in the wet there are always more risks.

"Everyone is competent enough to make the right calls," he added. "If it is too wet, it is too wet. We are racing in Monaco, which is a lot more dangerous than here, but we race there because it is deemed safe enough.

"Accidents happen, unfortunately. When you look back at the (van 't Hoff) accident it was extremely unfortunate the way it happened.

"There is not a lot you can do or change for it to be a lot safer. There are other tracks where you can have a crash and bounce back onto the track, there's low visibility and that can happen again. It was unlucky, in a way, that it happened at Spa twice, both close to each other."

"This is another topic for the FIA to look closely," said Charles Leclerc, "especially on a weekend like this where it seems we will have quite a lot of rain throughout the weekend, to not feel the pressure of starting a race just because we didn't have any running. We could be in that situation this weekend.

"It's obvious to say, but safety should come first and this needs to be the priority," he added. "People, and first of all us drivers, shouldn't complain if we don't have any laps because it is not safe to do so, with everything that has happened."

"Obviously, we will keep an eye on visibility, that's the biggest factor for us," said veteran Fernando Alonso. "Grip is normally fine, aquaplaning should be under control as we don't expect huge level of rain or standing water, it's just visibility, the biggest question mark.

"In Budapest FP1 visibility was borderline, it's not a track-specific thing, not that Spa visibility is lower, just the nature of the cars now with the ground effect and big tyres, the spray is bigger than the past. So yeah, we need to check obviously.

"It is a sprint weekend so there is not a risk only of delayed or cancel one qualifying or race, now we have two qualifying and two races, so the risk is a little bit higher than a normal weekend."


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1. Posted by Superbird70, 28/07/2023 9:22

"The fault clearly lies with the Belgians. If they had the sense to put the track in Saudi Arabia or one of their former African colonies none of this would be happening. "

Rating: Positive (3)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by Max Noble, 28/07/2023 8:50

"News Flash! Connor McGregor says UFC presents danger of broken noses, and bruising to upper body! Now involved in urgent push towards having cups of tea on the sofa and discussing things “…in a calm and reasonable manner.”

Visibility in the wet has reduced since Noah was a kid. but all of a sudden *now* it’s dangerous…? Not unlike Rock Stars who say they “…hate the attention of fans” - well… stop playing music and the fans will soo go away.

The best way to avoid the dangers presented by racing motor cars… is to never race a motor car.

I’m 100% certain no journo this weekend will ask Russell “So, given the one motor racing death at Spa this year, how do you feel this compares to the tens of thousands of men, women, and children, many under the age of thirty, all killed in Ukraine in the past year?” Bonus question! “Have you sold a Richard Mille watch to aid relief efforts in Ukraine this past six months?”

Anyone reading PitPass is more likely to suffer first world problems, rather than third world or Ukraine problems, but seriously… It’s wet can we please stop?

George! Quick! To the Simulator! :-) (get mum to plug it in for you if you’re unsure… electricity can be dangerous, especially in the wet…)

Disclaimer! I continue to drive to work in the wet, and when it rains here in Australia it really comes down… However…! I do not drive an open wheeler to work… And like Esteemed Editor Balfe - we don’t want any more dead drivers from on-track incidents… like the rest of us humans, however, they will continue to die from many other causes…


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3. Posted by elsiebc, 28/07/2023 1:25

"I don't see why they just don't get rid of the rain for the weekend. There's enough people in Formula One that believe we control the weather already so how many tires do we need to not bring to keep it from raining?"

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