F1: Sigh of relief as Belgian GP given another year

(GMM) Belgian GP organizers are breathing a sigh of relief after Spa-Francorchamps was slotted onto the Formula 1 calendar for 2024.

After last year, as Liberty Media aggressively expand the sport beyond its traditional venues, Spa was given only a one-year contract extension for 2023.

Recent contract talks have reportedly been intense, but it is now certain that the Belgian GP will be held once again next July.

“There is huge interest and continued demand for Formula 1,” said F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali, “and I believe this calendar strikes the right balance between traditional races and new and existing venues.”

The news actually comes at an awkward time for Spa-Francorchamps, with serious questions raised about track safety following another fatality last weekend of 18-year-old Formula Regional European driver Dilano van ‘t Hoff.

“I am pleased with the confidence that Formula 1 has shown in us,” said Melchior Wathelet, president of the race promoter Spa Grand Prix.

“Another page in Formula 1 will be written in 2024, to the delight of fans.”

Spa Grand Prix director Vanessa Maes is also quoted by Sporza news agency as saying: “By signing this contract, Spa Grand Prix shows that it is able to evolve in line with the new expectations of Formula 1 and its fans.

“Sport and spectacle are part of our DNA more than ever, and we will continue to offer the public a complete experience, both on and off the track.”

And after fellow F1 drivers including Lance Stroll called for dramatic action to ease the danger of the Spa circuit, world champion Max Verstappen – who was actually born in Belgium – offered some support.

“It’s, for sure, quite a dangerous corner,” he said when asked about the offending Eau Rouge-Radillon stretch.

“But we also go to Jeddah and sector 1 there, for me, is probably even more dangerous. I’m happy nothing has happened there yet because if you have a shunt there the outcome can be the same. It’s all blind,” Verstappen added.

“I think the changes they’ve already made in Spa, they definitely opened it up a lot more but it will always be a dangerous corner. But we also go to a lot of tracks where there are dangerous corners.

“Until there is an accident, you don’t say much about it. I feel it’s a bit unfair to just blame it on the track,” Verstappen said.

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