The entire Motorsport community has been in mourning since the evening of Saturday 31st August when the news broke that Formula 2 driver, Anthoine Hubert, succumbed to his injuries after a massive crash on the second lap of the Formula 2 Feature Race at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
This incident has shocked everyone to their core as safety has been a top priority for the FIA. An investigation is now underway to assess what exactly happened and how the three cars of Hubert, Juan Manuel Correa and Giuliao Alesi caused such an enormous crash. At just 22 years old, Hubert was slowly becoming a rising star after becoming French F4 Champion in 2014 and then GP3 Champion last year. Hubert raced for BWT Arden and managed to gain two wins to his title this year, first in Monaco and the later in his home country of France.
Hubert started his karting career at the age of 7 in 2004 and just under ten years later, in 2013, had managed to work his way up to single-seater racing with the French F4 Championship. Hubert took to this like a duck to water by winning the series on his first go with a grand total of 11 wins and 2 other podiums. By 2016, Hubert made his debut in the European Formula 3 Championship for Van Amersfoort Racing. One year later, he was recruited by ART Grand Prix to take part in the 2017 Championship for GP3. Hubert remained their driver until 2018 where he won the title and made an impression on Renault Sport Formula 1 Team. Beginning in January 2019, Hubert joined Formula 2 racing team BWT Arden who he raced with until his untimely passing.
Hubert started his road to Formula 1 back in May 2018 where he became affiliated with the Renault Sport Academy and later received full backing from the team. Hubert took part in the Renault Roadshows which were showcases by the Formula 1 team leading up to the 2019 French Grand Prix and became the first Formula driver to take part in one of the attractions at the Disneyland Paris theme park.
As soon as the news became public of Hubert’s passing, tributes came flooding in from drivers, team principles, members of all three Championships (F1, F2, F3) and many, many fans. Drivers including Pierre Gasly, Charles Leclerc and Esteban Ocon shared images of themselves when they were younger up until the present day to show how close they were and that they started their career at the same time, which many found difficult to comprehend that not just their fellow driver, but that their dear friend was no longer with us.
I was fortunate enough to attend the 2019 Belgian Grand Prix but had no idea what was about to transpire. Saturday 31st August started out as a day of excitement with the impending Formula 1 Qualifying which went off without a hitch and Charles Leclerc secured his third pole position. Of course, every single person has come to watch the Formula 1 Grand Prix but when those parts are finished, people are given the opportunity to watch F2 and F3 throughout the weekend as well, to continue the Motorsport buzz.
At 4:45pm (GMT+1), my family and I were finding some shade near the La Source corner when we heard the F2 Feature Race was about to begin. We stood to our feet and watched as 20 cars darted up to the first corner and even commented on how amazingly all 20 cars managed to get round without any collisions. We waited for them to return and sure enough, saw them whizz by for the second time and then race off into the distance. Where we were standing, there was a giant screen showing you the camera angles around the track so you could watch the race from other parts of the track. Suddenly, we saw the moment the three cars came together and there was a chorus of shocked cries from the crowd as everyone watched in despair. You could tell instantly that all was not well.
Now, it is common knowledge in the Motorsport community that if something is replayed on the screens then things are not as bad as they may seem but, instantly, the camera’s turned to a different part of the track and very obviously, the race was red flagged. It became public knowledge about 10/15 minutes later that the race has been cancelled which added to the feeling of dread that something was seriously wrong. The next thing my family and I saw were a multitude of Ambulances, Fire & Rescue trucks and Extraction Vans rushing to the scene. Things began to quieten down and all we could do was await any news of the drivers involved in the incident. We then got the crushing news that Hubert had succumbed to his injuries in hospital. We also found out about Correa’s injuries and that he was still in intensive care. It was later revealed he was stable and had been made aware of Hubert’s passing.
The next day was incredibly hard to witness. The Formula 2 Sprint Race was also cancelled to honour Hubert and before for Formula 3 race, there was a minutes silence where members of all three Championships came together to remember their fallen friend. Probably the most difficult thing to see was Hubert’s mother and brother standing front and centre holding Hubert’s helmet. Another minutes silence was held before the Formula 1 Grand Prix, again, in attendance by Hubert’s family and another tribute that the fans had come up with is that everyone was to stand and clap on Lap 19 of the F1 race to honour him and his racing number, 19. Everyone did this without fail.
For me, this hit home very hard as I had only met Hubert back in April 2019 when he took part in the Renault Showcase at Disneyland Paris. I managed to chat to him and watch him do doughnuts around the track. I was also extremely proud to see my two loves (Disney and Formula 1) come together when Hubert took part in the Lights, Moteurs, Action Stunt Show in the Walt Disney Studios. So to be there at the race where he sadly lost his life was rather devastating.
I do not share my story to bring up everyone’s grief again, I share to show how much this can affect us. Whether you had met Anthoine once, knew him personally or only heard his name through his incident, we all felt it. We all felt the overwhelming loss as he was part of our community; part of our family. Hubert’s name will now live on forever and we, in the Motorsport family will remember him always.
Feature Image Credit: FIA Formula 2 Website