Spa-Francorchamps, a successful trial by fire?

The pressure is very high in Belgium, both on the track and behind the scenes. If Max Verstappen made a beautiful comeback by winning the Ardennes, it was behind the scenes that the victory was the most beautiful. At the end of the 55th Belgian Grand Prix organized in Spa-Francorchamps, the organizers can be relieved: on a pure 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 was saved for the next season.

Let’s not rejoice too soon: if the Belgian Grand Prix is ​​saved, thanks also to the end of the 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 Formula 1, Stefano Domenicali first, must start by creating a perfect 2022 edition…

Sporting and famous success at Spa-Francorchamps…

From a sporting point of view, it’s hard to fault the circuit, which is as unique as ever. Even better: the work done on the route proves its effectiveness. No one went offshore at the Source bend or the Ickx bend, after the long Brussels straight. The smallest mistake is tolerated, like Nicholas Latifi in Les Combes. The widening of the Raidillon pass did not affect the scenery and the legendary bend proved to be as difficult as ever. Indeed, Max Verstappen’s dramatic victory quickly broke the suspense. Let’s remember that Esteban Ocon’s daring overtaking or Alexander Albon’s good resistance are the same.

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, enough to make the organizers of the Grand Prix smile. “The results are overwhelmingly positive, Vanessa Maes, managing director of the Spa Grand Prix, told the Belgian news agency on Monday. Everyone was happy, even the spectators, our subcontractors and the FOM. We received congratulations from Stefano Domenicali (President of Formula 1). I’m a bit reserved, but I think I can say that we had a very good Grand Prix. Some say it’s one of the best, if not the best in years. »

Spa-Francorchamps pulls out all the stops: new stands (including the 4,600-seat Raidillon stand), lots of entertainment, a stage with international DJs Oliver Heldens and Armin van Buuren, a restaurant hanging 30 meters from the ground, a demonstration of “Flying Man”Franky Zapata… The Grand Prix has been 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 therefore passes the test on both the sporting level and the popular aspect. However, the weekend was uneventful. When people reached the records, exiting the circuit caused traffic jams. “The circuit is not surrounded by six motorways directly at its exit, so it is obviously difficultVanessa Maes explained the day after the incident. In addition, there were two accidents that increased the running time by approximately 45 minutes. Despite this, I would like to emphasize the excellent collaboration with the federal police. We also have feedback from people who know that accessing the circuit is much easier than in previous years. »

Thousands of spectators were stuck in parking lots for several hours. Fights even broke out between viewers. “We arrived at the car at 5:05 in the afternoon. It was 8:57 in the evening and we were leaving the fieldtold an angry viewer to our colleagues at RTL Info. We pay 16 euros a day to park. Friday and Saturday, it was complicated, but today it was a disaster. There were people fighting in the parking lot because they couldn’t take it anymore. We have no explanation there. “A scandal in Francorchamps! Four hours to get out of the parking lot and still stopped in the same place! shouted another angry spectator.

What future for the Belgian Grand Prix?

If the future of the Belgian Grand Prix is ​​assured for 2023, Vanessa Maes is also looking at the longer term while highlighting the difficulties of having a place on the next calendar. “We will do this step by step. It is confirmed for 2023, but we will discuss a longer term in due course. It is very difficult to sign for 2023 because the places are expensive. However, between the Grand Prix at the end of contract, we were the first to resign. »

The question now is: did the promoters succeed in convincing Stefano Domenicali? If Vanessa Maes admits to receiving congratulations from the president of Formula 1 for organizing 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 roots of the battle are money. Aligning with new players like Las Vegas or Qatar is mission impossible. Problem: the passive of a circuit, as glorious as it is, doesn’t seem to be enough anymore. Monaco is in the hot seat, France and Germany have already been ejected… As difficult as it really is, Spa-Francorchamps has to queue for tickets to keep their entry ticket in the calendar.

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