Amid doubt and concern over the future of the Belgian Grand Prix, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz have given it a further seal of approval.
On and off, the Spa Francorchamps Circuit has hosted the Belgian Grand Prix since the start of the championship era in 1950, and had held 10 beforehand between 1925 and 1949.
The track has undergone numerous changes over the years, moving from a course that was made up almost entirely of precarious, high-speed corners, to the revised, still dangerous, but more sensible track we see today.
Located in the midst of the Ardennes Forest, there really is no place quite like Spa, with famous corners such as Eau Rogue, Raidillon, Pouillon and Blanchimont pulling spectators in every year.
The challenging, high-speed, technical thrill ride is something that the drivers thrive off; it is eye of the needle stuff 44 times over, and getting it right is one of the most rewarding feelings they can obtain.
Yet its place on the 2023 calendar was jeopardised by the arrival of new circuits such as Vegas and Miami, with the return of Kyalami expected to be the final straw.
It appears that the racetrack in South Africa will not be ready to host a Formula 1 grand prix next year though so, for now at least, Spa will remain.
Spa is one of the greats of the racing schedule, and one of the founding venues of the world championship.
It is considered as one of the untouchable races along with the likes of Silverstone, Monza and Monaco – there is a mighty scramble to keep the latter on for next year too.
Verstappen won the race last weekend from 14th on the grid, beating team-mate Sergio Perez by nearly 18 seconds.
The Dutchman looked on rails all weekend at a track he adores, and his mastery of the circuit, coupled with the incredible Dutch support he gets there every year, makes it an event he never wants to leave the calendar.
“It’s my favourite track on the calendar, it’s amazing, especially when the car is really hooked up, like in qualifying it was really enjoyable to drive,” he said, quoted by RaceFans.net
“From my side, I hope we will never stop coming here, but at the end of the day it’s not up to me, but I’m very happy that it’s here and that it’s happening next year.”
Plenty of changes were made to the track this year in the interests of safety following multiple scary crashes over the years.
Many of those have taken place up Eau Rouge, and one of them tragically claimed the life of Anthoine Hubert in 2019.
The run-off and the layout of that corner was revised, while gravel was inserted on the exits of Turn 11, Pouillon and Blanchimont.
The gravel on the latter arguable prevented a Formula 3 crash between between Oliver Goethe and Zane Maloney from ending a lot worse.
Sainz is a fan of the alterations, and he too wants to keep racing at Spa for many years to come.
“It’s one of the best tracks in the calendar, they’ve also done a very good job with the changes they’ve done on track, putting gravel, getting rid of some Tarmac run-offs, making Eau Rouge safer,” added the Spaniard.
“It’s all changes that are in the right direction, and I think we need to congratulate the circuit for that.
“It makes for a better show, and we look forward to come back in the future and hopefully it can stay in the calendar long[-term].”
Sainz finished third behind Verstappen and Perez as Red Bull took their fourth one-two of the season.
George Russell and Fernando Alonso both came home ahead of sixth-placed Charles Leclerc.