It was a challenging weekend for everybody at Spa. What should have been a joyous and stimulating return in the month of summer holidays turned into a heartbreaking weekend in which the Formula 2 driver Anthoine Hubert was hurt in an accident on Saturday evening.
If you didn’t know him, Anthoine Hubert had been a rising star on the ladder to Formula 1. Anthoine took to the race track rather, winning the F4 name although his Father Francois had been a rally driver.
Drivers: ” We raced for Hubert
The Frenchman won the GP3 Championship last year and was rewarded with a contract with the Driver Academy of the Renault F1 team. Anthoine graduated to F2 this season and impressed winning on home soil in France and Monaco, and was in line for a chair with one of the best teams at the string for next year.
I personally didn’t know Anthoine – I had just met him a few occasions in the paddock with a few friends, but by most accounts he was a popular and lovely young guy. I interviewed Charles Leclerc after Qualifying in the Skypad neither of us knew how terrible it was and when the accident happened in fact that it was. The reaction from greats like Alain Prost and Lewis Hamilton advised you how shaken we are nowadays when we shed a motorist.
There were lots of people of the paddock – in our Sky F1 team – and on social media who wondered how motorists can continue driving at high speeds through the same corners and taking the very exact risks. That ability focus when you place your helmet and to detach from the external world is exactly what makes racing drivers unique.
I’ve been fortunate that in 18 years of race cars, I been involved in a race in which somebody was killed. This was Allan Simonsen at Le Mans in 2013 and that I remember hearing about it as I had set my helmet and put in the car and also my team-mate Brendon Hartley came to the pits to allow me to shift over. The simple fact that I had to push straight off and stay focused for another 22 hours meant I and all the other drivers in the race – were able to carry on driving flat out without thinking about the risks we were carrying.
It is a defence mechanism that most drivers engage in their mind. That feeling ‘it won’t happen to people’ but every so often, tragically we are reminded by the sport of the dangers lurking just around the corner.
If you speak with Sir Jackie Stewart about the age he hurried in, he will tell you losing friends and competitions almost on a monthly basis was not rare and it’s thanks to people like him and the FIA that we haven’t lost as many motorists in recent times. There’ll be a complete investigation of course and there’ll be lessons that all people is able to learn but regrettably motor sport is dangerous and also each and every motorist – Anthoine comprised – accepts the dangers every time we put in the cockpit of a racing car.
As for the Grand Prix it had been fantastic to see Charles Leclerc finally get. He has driven beautifully after the chance of potential wins in Bahrain, Baku and Austria through this season and all, it was great to see him finally get one over the line. Charles was devastating in Qualifying, beating on his World Champion team partner for this time and its sixth successive Qualifying with a of a moment.
In the race he was able to break away from Sebastian with better pace and tyre management. When Hamilton began to shut the gap down, but it got a bit tricky in the conclusion it turned out to be a mighty performance.
Mercedes were running more downforce and that of course made it hard for them to overtake. It meant they had very good speed and so we had a cat and mouse game where one car was clearly faster than the other at various parts of the track.
There is not a lot more that Mercedes could have done – perhaps a stop one lap earlier would have decreased the deficit with a few seconds into Leclerc but it is not a race which you’re able to criticise them around a lot of.
Vettel seemed to suffer with tyre degradation more than his young team-mate and also I wonder whether maybe Ferrari would have attempted to run somewhat more downforce just to help him at the twistier centre sector of their lap because the advantage they had on the entire power run through the very first sector was absolutely massive.
Ferrari must have more of an edge As soon as we go to Monza next weekend. There are corners than we have at Spa and much more to the point, just a couple of corners which is the point where the Mercedes’ front end grasp is a good step better than the cars. They would have to do next week something very wrong to not provide a victory before the loving tifosi!
Lando Norris was quite unlucky not to have a good end result in fifth time Alex Albon inherited the location at the end after a great push from 17th on the grid. The Thai motorist did a fantastic job on his first outing with the team – he was less than three tenths slower than Max Verstappen in Qualifying before he aborted his lap in the end because of the grid penalties that turned out to be a very good effort for his first session in the auto.
At the racehe bided his time on and then made strong progress in the second half to record a career best outcome.
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