Where, and what, is Eau Rouge?

Strictly speaking, the Eau Rouge is a minor tributary of the River Amblève, or Amel, which flows through the province of Liège in eastern Belgium. Eau Rouge translates into English as ‘Red Water’ and the watercourse takes its name from its red hue, due to deposits of ferric oxide or haematite. However, Eau Rouge is also the name of a corner on the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, or Spa, for short, in Stavelot, Belgium, situated at the point where the track crosses the stream for the first time.

Eau Rouge is, almost certainly, the most famous corner in Formula One motor racing but, in truth, it is just the first part of a very fast, left-right-left sequence that constitutes turns 3, 4 and 5 on the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. At the start of a Grand Prix, cars have just a short run into the first corner on the circuit, a very tight right-hand hairpin, known as La Source and, thereafter, accelerate downhill to Eau Rouge.

To avoid any confusion, though, Eau Rouge is the left-hand kink at the base of the dip; the steeply uphill, right-hand corner that follows is known as ‘Raidillon’, which translates as ‘Steep Path’, and the corner sequence finishes with another kink to the left at the crest of the rise. Before World War II, Eau Rouge was followed by a right-hand hairpin, known as Ancienne Douane but, to make the circuit faster, the hairpin was cut off by the corner known, since 1939, as Raidillon.

Historically, the Eau Rouge – Raidillon climb was considered the most challenging corner in Formula One. Technological advances and safety modifications have reduced its overall difficulty but, granted it is driven flat out, at speeds in excess of 300 km/h, it should continue to produce the same adrenalin rush, for drivers and spectators alike, as it always has for some time yet.

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