A circuit war between Formula 1 owners Liberty Media and the drivers appears to be brewing, with the American company set to drop the legendary Belgian Grand Prix to open up a slot on the calendar for either another American or Middle Eastern race.
Spa-Francorchamps is arguably one of the homes of F1, with the circuit in the Ardennes forest having hosted 55 Grand Prix’s since featuring on the first-ever F1 calendar back in 1950.
The venue is famous for incredible racing, unpredictable weather, and of course Eau Rouge.
Yet it appears none of this will be enough to keep it on the calendar, with 2022 looking likely to be the circuit’s last dance at hosting the pinnacle of motorsport.
Drivers are furious with the owner’s position on ditching Spa and have shown vocal support for the one-of-a-kind venue.
Circuit organisers have pleaded with F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali that the circuit retains its place, with Spa having undergone changes to Eau Rouge as well as a full entertainment programme having been planned for the Belgian Grand Prix.
Supposedly, the Belgian GP weekend isn’t entertaining enough, with the races in America having raised the bar on what is expected from an F1 weekend.
The circuit organisers have therefore looked across the Atlantic for inspiration.
“It’s true that there has been a request from F1 to bring more entertainment,” says commercial director Stijn de Boever.
“They said history is great, but we need more. We have decided to listen and follow their new way of delivering F1 events. The American way, with all the entertainment that goes with it.
“We are planning all sorts of entertainment, with DJs, exclusive events, fans zones and activations around the circuit. You can say our legendary Grand Prix will also get the necessary bling. If we want to continue hosting races in the future, we have to modernise.”
An incredible amount of work has gone into developing both the circuit and the grandstands, with the 2021 Belgian GP having been a complete washout due to torrential rain.
The circuit has been redeveloped with all conditions in mind, to make the track more accessible for fans and most importantly, more enjoyable.
“The new Raidillon grandstand offers incredible views and the circuit itself has also been working hard on improving its facilities and becoming more sustainable,” de Boever explained.
“As far as traffic goes, we have been working with the local police to add car parks further away from the track on solid ground, near Malmedy, with shuttle buses transporting fans to and from the track,” de Boever continued.
“In 2019 it went quite well when it was dry, but now we have more options to provide better parking on hard soil.
“Of course, it’s still Spa. We don’t have trains that can take care of tens of thousands of people.”
Reportedly, Liberty Media have been impressed with the changes undertaken by the organisers, with the track having an increased chance of featuring in 2023.
Spa has been in the position it’s in before, with the threat of not currently being on next year’s calendar, with the organisers labelling it as “not a big issue”.
“F1 has been very pleased with our plans,” said de Boever.
“They are happy we are continuing to invest in a better fan experience, despite race day being sold out since December.
“It’s happened before that we headed into a Grand Prix without having certainty about the following year, so it’s not a big issue. We’re looking for a yearly race, not alternating with another GP, but we’re going to listen to what F1 proposes.
“Liberty Media clearly has found a new way to organise F1 races and we are going to follow them.
“Yes, we have something to prove. We don’t have petrodollars, but we can show that we are a legendary Grand Prix that can entertain 100,000 fans per day. It’s a big plus that they’ll be able to experience it first-hand in August.”