Spa-Francorchamps, a successful trial by fire?

Spa-Francorchamps, a successful trial by fire?

The pressure was very high in Belgium, both on the track and behind the scenes. Whether Max Verstappen made a magnificent comeback by winning in the Ardennes, it was behind the scenes that the victory was the most beautiful. At the end of the 55th Belgian Grand Prix organized at Spa-Francorchamps, the organizers can be relieved: on a purely sporting level, the event was a success. The reward: a renewal of the contract for 2023. After several months of long and difficult negotiations, the Belgian meeting is saved for next season.

Let’s not rejoice too quickly: if the Belgian Grand Prix was saved, it is also thanks to the end of discussions between F1 and Kyalami, in South Africa. Beyond 2023, the future remains unclear for the Walloon route in the queen category. To convince the governing bodies of the Formula 1Stefano Domenicali in the first place, it was necessary to start by producing a perfect 2022 edition…

Sporting and popular success at Spa-Francorchamps…

From a sporting point of view, it’s hard to fault the circuit, which is still as fabulous as ever. Even better: the work carried out on the route has proven its effectiveness. No one went offshore in the Source bend or in the Ickx bend, after the long Brussels straight. The slightest mistake was sanctioned, like Nicholas Latifi at Les Combes. The widening of the loophole at Raidillon did not affect the spectacle and the legendary bend proved to be just as demanding as before. Certainly, the overwhelming victory of Max Verstappen quickly cut short the suspense. Let us remember all the same the audacious overruns ofEsteban Ocon or the beautiful resistance ofAlexander Albon.

A sporting success, but also a popular one: 360,000 people came to the circuit during the three days of the event. A record crowd, which is enough to make the organizers of the Grand Prix smile. “The results are extremely positive, Vanessa Maes, managing director of Spa Grand Prix, told the Belga news agency on Monday. Everyone is happy, whether it’s the spectators, our subcontractors and the FOM. We received congratulations from Stefano Domenicali (President of Formula 1). I’m quite reserved, but I think I can say that we had a very good Grand Prix. Some say it was one of the best, if not the best in years. »

Spa-Francorchamps had pulled out all the stops: new stands (including the 4,600-seat Raidillon stand), entertainment galore, a stage with international DJs Oliver Heldens and Armin van Buuren, a restaurant hanging 30 meters away from the ground, a demonstration of “Flying Man”Franky Zapata… The Grand Prix was transformed into a show for three days, adopting the modern standards imposed by the new localities of Formula 1 such as Miami or Saudi Arabia.

… but still some imperfections

The 2022 Belgian Grand Prix has therefore passed the test on the sporting level and on the popular aspect. However, the weekend did not go smoothly. If the crowd reached records, the exit of the circuit caused traffic jams. “The circuit is not surrounded by six motorways directly at its exit, so it is obviously difficultexplained Vanessa Maes the day after the event. In addition, there were two accidents which increased the running time by approximately 45 minutes. Despite this, I would like to emphasize the very good collaboration with the federal police. We also had feedback from people finding that access to the circuit was easier than in previous years. »

Thousands of spectators were stranded in parking lots for several hours. Overflows even took place with fights between spectators. “We got to the car at 5:05 p.m. It’s 8:57 p.m. and we’re just stepping out of the field, entrusted a disgruntled viewer to our colleagues at RTL Info. We paid 16 euros a day to be able to park. Friday and Saturday, it was complicated, but today it was catastrophic. There are people who were fighting in the parking lot because they couldn’t take it anymore. We were left there without an explanation. “A scandal at Francorchamps! Four hours to get out of a car park and still stopped in the same place! shouted another angry viewer.

What future for the Belgian Grand Prix?

If the future of the Belgian Grand Prix is ​​assured for 2023, Vanessa Maes is also keeping an eye on the longer term while highlighting the difficulties in having a place on the next calendar. “We’re going to take it step by step. It’s confirmed for 2023, but we’ll discuss the longer term in due course. It was very difficult to sign for 2023 because places are expensive. But, among the Grand Prix at the end of the contract, we are the first to have resigned. »

The question now is: have the promoters succeeded in convincing Stefano Domenicali? If Vanessa Maes claims to have received the congratulations from the president of Formula 1 on the organization of the Walloon event, will they be enough to stay in 2024? If the Belgian Grand Prix has all the elements to remain a sporting and popular success, the sinews of war is money. Aligning with new players like Las Vegas or Qatar is mission impossible. Problem: the passive of a circuit, as glorious as it is, no longer seems to be enough. Monaco is in the hot seat, France and Germany have already been ejected… As hard as the reality is, Spa-Francorchamps will have to line up the tickets to keep its entry ticket on the calendar.

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