Following on from the race that never was in 2021, Formula 1 returns to Spa-Francorchamps this weekend. Torrential rain on race day 12 months ago meant that the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix will forever be the shortest World Championship Grand Prix – officially lasting for just one lap. Max Verstappen 'won' after qualifying on pole as George Russell stared in P2 with half-points awarded for the first time since the 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix. Since that soggy day, Spa has undergone some rather visible track changes – designed to make the place safer for drivers while not reducing the challenge. But what are the track changes that have been made at Spa and why have they been made?
Spa's most famous corner is revamped
As any F1 fan will tell you, Eau Rouge is the bottom of the hill, while Raidillon is at the crest leading onto the blast down the Kemmel Straight and towards Les Combes. The run-off at the top of the hill, particularly to the inside, has been a major talking point following some big accidents in this area of the track. If cars crashed and hit the inside barrier, they were likely to be spat back out into the middle of the race track, while unsighted cars crested the hill. Following the fatal accident of Anthoine Hubert in the 2019 Formula 2 feature race, drivers reiterated calls for this section of the track to be changed. They did not want the essence of Eau Rouge/Raidillon to change, but for more room on the inside in case something went wrong. This has happened over the winter of 2021/22, with the famed corner finally undergoing some major renovation work. In part, this was made necessary by floods that heavily damaged the track during the 2021/22 winter. Resurfacing work was carried out, with Spa also then taking the opportunity to address some of the safety concerns about the Eau Rouge/Raidillon sequence. Some slight tweaks have been made to the radius of Eau Rouge itself, but there is now far greater run-off on either side of Raidillon. The barrier has been moved further back, creating lots more run-off for drivers in case they need to use it.
Gravel traps added to improve safety
Most of the major work at Spa has been centered on Eau Rouge/Raidillon, with the remainder being tweaks to run-off throughout the lap. At La Source, the tight Turn 1 hairpin, the run-off has been extended and a gravel trap added on the outside. Following the blast down the Kemmel Straight, the Les Combes/Malmedy section of track has had its asphalt run-off again replaced with gravel, with the barrier pushed back. Turn 11, the so-called 'Corner with no name', will feature a new section of track to the inside, but F1 machines will remain on the iconic layout. This new bit of track is so that Spa can potentially hold motorcycle races as in line with FIM requirements. Elsewhere, the run-off at Blanchimont has been increased in a similar fashion to the rest of the track, with gravel again being added to the outside. The total cost of the renovation work is estimated to be about €25 million.