F1 drivers on emotional Belgian GP after Anthoine Hubert tragedy
A raw day at Spa after Hubert's death; "I didn't know how I felt about being here," says Ricciardo. "I didn't want to be here"
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 02/09/19 10:04am
Formula 1 drivers have spoken candidly about struggling with their emotions at the Belgian GP following Anthoine Hubert's tragic passing, with some admitting they did not feel comfortable getting back in the car.
Charles Leclerc won on an emotional afternoon at Spa on Sunday, a day after Hubert was killed in a high-speed accident in an F2 race at the circuit.
Frenchman Hubert, just 22 years of age, was close to many drivers on the grid - particularly Leclerc and Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly, who were both suffering after the loss of a friend they grew up racing alongside.
"I must say it was really difficult because of course it was in my mind before going in the car and putting the helmet on," said Gasly. "I just can't believe it.
"I've grown up with this guy. I raced in karting with Charles and Anthoine since 2005. Then we lived in the same flat for five years. We went to the same school, in the same classroom. I've known this guy so long and we shared so many moments on track, and off track especially.
"Honestly I still can't believe it. I just need to go back home and I plan already to see all my friends and his friends so we can be reunited together and remember all the great times we had with him."
Leclerc dedicated his race victory, his first in F1, to Hubert, while there was a minute's silence before lights out as the F1 drivers were joined by Hubert's mother and brother.
Throughout his racing career, tragedy and grief has followed Leclerc, who lost a godfather in Jules Bianchi, and whose father passed away before he won an F2 race in 2017.
Sky F1's Damon Hill admitted he was "immensely impressed" with Leclerc's response.
"There was quite a bit of emotion before the race," Leclerc told reporters. "But when I got in the car, as I did for my father two years ago, you need to put all the emotions apart and focus on the job, which is exactly what I did.
"Then you will realise at the end of the race and all the emotions come back when you cross the finish line. I was very happy to win and remember him the way he deserves to be [remembered]."
Lewis Hamilton, who finished second behind Leclerc in Belgium, was also struggling with the emotions.
"I didn't know Anthoine but it just really hit home," Hamilton stated after the race Sunday. "I didn't really sleep a lot last night, it was just a really sad day.
"Seeing his parents this morning, it's hard to believe he's gone. He was with us in spirit, and I tried to win the race with him in mind. I hope I did him proud."
'I didn't want to be here'
For some drivers, they understandably didn't even want to be in the cockpit at all.
"I feel good that this race is over," said Daniel Ricciardo, whose Renault team had Hubert signed up as an academy driver. "I didn't know how I felt about being here. I didn't want to be here and I think I speak for most of us.
"Strangely enough I think competing today was the best way we could show our respects. It's weird. It's been really strange. I'm glad it's over."
Racing Point's Sergio Perez added: "I don't think any of us wants to be here today, it's been such a sad day.
"For our community, for our family, all we can do is give this race to Anthoine because it's the very least he deserves, his family, his close friends. It's a very sad day."
'Hubert's talent was special'
Renault hailed Hubert as a "true gentleman" and a future F1 star after his death, and Cyril Abiteboul told Sky F1 that his talent was "something special".
"Anthoine was a boy who was full of life, full of passion, full of energy," said the Renault boss. "Clearly it's been a shock to everyone.
"His talent was something special, something that was building up. He didn't come and smash the junior series. But clearly he was on the way up.
"The [GP3] title last year gave him a new energy, and really what was standing out was the hard work. He was an example."