Russell suggested that F1 might experience a similar situation to the 2021 race day, with minimal or no practice on the track due to poor visibility conditions and ongoing concerns.
Earlier this month, the tragic passing of young Dutch racer Dilano van ‘t Hoff in a FRECA race at Spa highlighted the importance of safety in wet conditions.
Following the incident, the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association sent a letter to the FIA requesting updates on the investigation’s outcome. They also inquired about potential measures to enhance safety for Formula 1 and other racing divisions at the location.
“I am currently in regular communication with the FIA regarding the unfortunate death of Dilano in FRECA,” stated Russell, the Mercedes driver, in response to Motorsport.com’s inquiry about the GPDA’s interaction with the regulatory authority.
“The two questions are, is Spa safe enough? And then it’s the question of the conditions, and I think 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 the circuits for sure, Spa is one of the riskier circuits, along with Jeddah, and along with Monaco, for example, Suzuka to a degree.
When the weather conditions are combined, it becomes extremely difficult. The lack of visibility is a major issue, as there is absolutely no visibility at all. To provide some context, it feels like driving on a highway in heavy rain and intentionally turning off your windshield wipers. This accurately describes the experience from the cockpit.
“So [there are] not really any short-term solutions. I personally think Spa is safe enough, but it’s just we need to find a solution for the wet for visibility.”
Safety Car, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B
Russell emphasized that the GPDA has not requested any modifications to the Eau Rouge layout in the future.
“We have discussed the matter, and collectively, we have reached the consensus that we believe it does not require any modifications,” he stated. “It is evident that they have made significant advancements in the run-off, which is likely the most crucial aspect.”
Russell acknowledged that the weather might affect the track action during some of the three days of this weekend.
“I believe that, luckily, the weather appears to be improving for Sunday,” he stated. “Therefore, I anticipate that Sunday’s plans will proceed as scheduled. However, considering recent occurrences, I believe it is crucial for the FIA to make courageous choices regarding safety and visibility.”
“We know what the situation was two years ago. We don’t want it to be strung out as perhaps it was then. But as I said, we are going to need some bold decisions.
Everyone desires to participate in a race, it is a common wish. However, when you are speeding down a straight path at a velocity exceeding 200 miles per hour, with limited visibility of only 50 meters ahead, there is a high likelihood of encountering major accidents. Therefore, the individuals involved in this weekend’s event bear a significant responsibility.
Asked if he thought cars could race in the sort of rain seen at Spa during Thursday’s media activities he said: “Well, I think two years ago, that was a quick decision to call the race off. I think for one single F1 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.
Raidillon circuit detail
Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images
“Anybody from third position backwards, cannot see. You’re talking 20, 30 or 40 metres. And I felt like the incident that happened in FRECA, it was only really a matter of time that something like that happened.
Drivers are not driving at maximum speed on the straight section due to limited visibility, resulting in a collision where one vehicle hits another from behind, consequently obstructing the track with a car.
“I cannot reword.”
When discussing safety matters, Russell emphasized that the drivers have a positive relationship with the FIA.
He expressed that, in all honesty, after being in this position for approximately three years, he believes there is certainly increased communication between us drivers as a whole and the FIA.
“They are eager to listen to our opinions and have us share our insights from the cockpit, with the goal of enhancing not just F1, but the entire motorsport industry. It’s remarkable that we possess such advanced technology, and there is discussion about potential future AI advancements that could aid in preventing these unfortunate accidents.”
However, it is important that the information can also be applied to simpler formulas that lack advanced technology like CCTV cameras, in order to respond promptly to tragic events.
“Yes, indeed, as previously mentioned, it will always carry risks, but we simply need to continue making progress.”
He stated that finding a solution for poor visibility will likely take several years. It is a difficult and challenging task.
“I have some concerns regarding the junior categories. In my opinion, F3 should not permit 30 cars on the track simultaneously, regardless of weather conditions. Additionally, I believe it’s only a matter of time before a major incident occurs in that category as well.”