Former Formula 1 world champion Damon Hill says that he's worried that the heightened level of rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen could result in a significant level of risk of an accident at this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix.
The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is one of the oldest on the current Formula 1 calendar, and has seen some of the most dangerous accidents of recent times, including the fatal crash that claimed the life of rising star Anthoine Hubert in 2019.
Last month Williams reserve driver Jack Aitken suffered a broken collarbone and fractured vertebra in a multi-car crash at Raidillon during the Spa 24 Hours sportscar race.
Hill says that with the title fight between Hamilton and Verstappen reaching new levels of intensity, there's a serious risk of further scary collisions between the pair - similar to the first lap contact between them in the British GP.
“It’s another fast circuit like Silverstone,” Hill told the official F1 Nation podcast this week. "They’ve already shown they’re not afraid to tangle at high speed, but Spa’s a whole other level of risk.
"It is a concern," he stressed. "We have had some nasty episodes not so long ago in the F2 races.
"If I was [race director] Michael Masi, I’d be in the drivers’ briefing for the weekend saying: ‘Listen guys, respect this place. It’s one of the fastest tracks we go to, we do not want to have any nasty episodes'."
The incident at Silverstone ended up with Verstappen taking a hard impact in the barriers at the exit of Copse, forcing him out of the race. Hamilton recovered and overcame a penalty to win, to the vexation of the Red Bull team.
Verstappen was also involved in a first lap incident at the start of the Hungarian Grand Prix two weeks later, when Hamilton's team mate Valtteri Bottas triggered a multi-car accident by braking too late into turn 1.
Those setbacks have resulted in Hamilton regaining the lead of the drivers championship, and Mercedes moving ahead of Red Bull in the constructors standings before the summer shutdown.
Belgium is the first race back since the holidays and Hill says the teams need to do their best to calm their drivers down and ensure the simmering feud doesn't boil over again this weekend.
“If you’re Christian Horner, I think you need to sit down with Max Verstappen and say: ‘We really need a clean weekend’," Hill explained.
"He’s been involved in lap 1 crashes at the last two races," he added. “He’s lost a massive chunk of points. Second place at Spa behind Lewis Hamilton is [still] a great result.”
Despite enjoying huge local support from Dutch 'orange army' fans crossing the border, Verstappen is yet to win the Belgian GP or even lead a lap of the race at Spa-Francorchamps. Verstappen has nonetheless declared Spa to be his favourite track on the calendar.
Hamilton is a four-time winner of the event, the same number of times as Kimi Raikkonen. Only Michael Schumacher (six wins) and Ayrton Senna (five) have been more successful at the venue over the years.
Mercedes pair Hamilton and Bottas took a 1-2 victory in last year's race with Verstappen finishing in third place. But this year's Red Bull is significantly stronger and there's little in it going into the 2021 event.
"It is a good place to re-set our championship fight and I’m well prepared and feeling good ahead of the weekend," he said in the official Red Bull team preview this week.