SEPTEMBER 2, 2002
The future of Spa
Spa-Francorchamps is one of the classic racing facilities in the world and has hosted a Grand Prix most years since the first event in 1925. It is widely considered to be one of the best racing tracks in the world although it is also wellknown for its poor organisation, aggressive security and poor facilities. In part this is because the Belgians feel that they can get away with less need to invest than other tracks simply because it is Spa. Things have not been helped by the fact that the Belgian politicians - notably those in the dominant Flemish-speaking north of the country - have been constantly battling with the F1 authorities on the question of tobacco advertising. They are not willing to compromise and it is often seen as being part of a battle between the Flems and the French-speaking Walloons. The Spa circuit is in Wallonia. The Flems would like there to be a race at Zolder but Belgium is not an important enough country to demand a race and the only reason that there is still a Grand Prix is that Spa is such a great circuit.
But the most recent anti-Spa stunt by the politicians in Brussels has pushed the patience of F1 people to the limit and with a string of new races bidding for places in the F1 calendar Belgium needs to pay attention to warnings.
It now seems impossible to stop the current anti-tobacco legislation going through but the race could be moved next year to May (a switch with Austria is a good idea) so that the race will not fall victim to the ban which starts in August 2003. Beyond that the Belgians are relying on a change of heart or a change of government.
With F1 looking at races to lose, Spa is playing a dangerous game