Spa under pressure: drivers threaten to skip the track

Spa under pressure: drivers threaten to skip the track

05-08-2023 12:08 Last update: 12:58

Ludo van Denderen

Formula 1 will return to the Spa-Francorchamps circuit again in 2024, but the further future of the pinacle of motorsport in the Belgian Ardennes is highly uncertain. For the World Endurance Championship (WEC), racing at Spa is not in question, but there is a chance that a very devalued field could be at the start next season.

It was announced several weeks ago that WEC will visit the Spa-Francorchamps circuit on 11 May 2024 for the third round of the championship. Meanwhile, it is also clear that the same weekend - on 11 and 12 May - will see two Formula E ePrix in Berlin. To top it all off, the IMSA championship - the American counterpart of WEC - revealed on Friday night that a race will be held at Laguna Seca on the same weekend.

Drivers active in multiple classes

Unlike in Formula 1, it is quite common for drivers to compete in multiple racing classes at the same time. A well-known combination is racing in WEC and Formula E. Drivers who race in both championships will - as things stand - have to make a choice: will it be Spa or Berlin? Take for instance Envision Racing, the constructors' champion in Formula E since last week, which has with Sebastien Buemi and (almost certainly) Robin Frijns two men who also drive in the WEC. Indeed, Buemi is racing for the strongest team in endurance racing, namely Toyota.

If Buemi did not compete in the ePrix of Berlin, he would be out of the running for the world title in the electric class. If he does not compete in the WEC at Spa, he is unlikely to become champion in this series. In the WEC, in principle, three drivers alternate in one car, and in this case Toyota can choose to field a replacement or start with two drivers. That is all but ideal.

Even more complicated by IMSA

IMSA makes it all even more complicated. In fact, there are also drivers and brands that compete in both the WEC and IMSA. Cadillac, for instance, has two cars that - including their regular drivers (including Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande) - compete in both series. For an American brand like Cadillac, it is easy to predict where the priority will be in May 2024: domestically, of course.

At least for the WEC race at Spa, a race with a devalued field is looming. Talks are reportedly ongoing to reschedule the WEC race, but no decision has yet been made. No doubt, to be continued.