F1 drivers welcome return of Spa gravel traps

Formula 1 drivers have welcomed Spa’s plan to introduce gravel traps in place of asphalt run-off areas at several key corners.

The Belgian GP venue confirmed last week that it will be putting gravel at La Source, Raidillon, Blanchimont, Les Combes and Stavelot.

The changes are being made to ensure that the circuit gets an FIM licence for bike racing, and are part of an €80m revamp that also includes a new grandstand at the top of Eau Rouge/Raidillon.

Asphalt run-off areas have been a regular topic of conversation at recent F1 drivers’ briefings, and at the Belgian GP meeting McLaren’s Carlos Sainz indicated that the circuit had gone too far in that direction.

“I feel like the only thing Spa is missing now is the gravel and the grass next to the exit kerbs,” said the Spaniard. “Now we have a bit too much as far as the feel of risk, and the paying of risk/reward is not good enough in these modern circuits.”

Visits to circuits like Mugello and Nurburgring have put a further focus on the drivers’ preference gravel traps.

Sainz made it clear last weekend that he backs the planned changes at Spa.

“Welcome back gravel and pray for more gravel in the future, and grass and everything,” he said when asked by Motorsport.com.

“Because it's exactly what I think we all need to make the circuits nice and spectacular again.

“I hope there's something else going on at Spa and they're not wasting €80m on gravel! But welcome back gravel, and let's keep praying for more gravel and more grass.”

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Williams' George Russell stressed that drivers should be punished for making mistakes on track.

“This is what racing is about,” said the Williams man when asked by Motorsport.com. “It’s having that thrill, being on the limit, knowing if you make a mistake, you will be punished. And unfortunately there’s too many circuits, obviously for safety reasons, that don’t give you that element while driving.

“So gravel was taken away for certain reasons and brought back for others. And I think from a driver’s perspective - I don’t know necessarily the whole safety implications - it would be nice to see more pure race tracks again with these gravel run-offs.”

FIA race director Michael Masi is happy to see gravel traps introduced if they are deemed suitable for the corner in question.

“I’ve said before, corner by corner, circuit by circuit, and if it works in a particular circumstance, absolutely,” he said when asked by Motorsport.com.

“If it doesn’t work, then we need to look at the whole picture of how it works, and the FIA, working together with FIM, from that perspective. There’s a number of inputs.

“We’ll continue to look at it on a circuit by circuit perspective, corner by corner basis to try and make the best judgement.”

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