Lots of drivers talked about the late Anthoine Hubert today, almost a year on from the French driver’s tragic death in Formula 2 at the Belgian circuit last year.
Pierre Gasly paid a beautiful tribute at today’s press conference. Gasly raced against Hubert in their early years and went to school together and the French federation of motorsport. Gasly credits Hubert for pushing him to be better. He also unveiled a special tribute helmet dedicated to his friend for this race.
“I have thousands of memories of Anthoine and I was lucky to grow up with him,” said Gasly. “From my first season in karting when I was nine I started to race against him. Then from the age of 13 we both decided to leave our homes to go in that school that the federation sort of built for us, for drivers.
“We were the only three French drivers to make the move. There was Anthoine, another French driver and myself. From the age of 13 ’til I was 18 I spent basically from 7:30 breakfast in the morning ’til 10pm in the evening, each single day together. We were in the same classes, we were training together, we were racing together. So it’s difficult to pick only one [memory].
“There was consistent competition, whether we were in the class, when we were training together. If he was doing 15 push-ups, I would do 16 and then he would try 17. If we would play PlayStation we would spend hours just to beat the time of each other on Gran Turismo or the Formula 1 game.”
Gasly added that his friend was “a very smart guy, very dedicated in everything he was doing and that’s why I had huge respect for him. [He was] a rival but at the same time I truly know that I would have never achieved what I did without growing with him, because we were pushing each other so much, whether it was on-track or off the track. It just made me a better athlete, made me a better driver and always pushed myself to deliver more, find more within myself. It’s been part of my self-development as a person and as a driver and I can only be grateful for that.”
The AlphaTauri driver admitted returning to Spa is extremely difficult following the heartbreaking events of last year.
“[It has] been quite hard and strange [to return to Spa] because Spa is my favourite track and I always came here with great memories from my first win in single-seaters and Formula 4, two-litres and GP2 and the different wins I had here. This year is a different story because soon as I put one foot in the paddock I just have these images that come back in my mind and things I don’t want to accept or I struggle to accept.”
“During the track walk I just had these images and footage in mind that I wish would have never happened. Unfortunately that’s the danger of our sport. It’s just hard to accept. Even doing this felt wrong, doing this special helmet and dropping these flowers.’’
“[I was] thinking how I was with him after Budapest last year. I had Sunday dinner with him and we shared a nice moment with his girlfriend and other friends on Sunday night after Budapest. This was the last time I saw him.’’
“He was one of the first ones to send me a text when Red Bull decided to put me back in Toro Rosso. For me, it’s just very hard to accept he’s not with us anymore.”
Another friend of Hubert’s, Charles Leclerc – who poignantly took his first win in F1 a day after the death of the F2 driver – said today that he had Anthoine in his thoughts during last year’s race and that won’t change this weekend.
‘’I have a lot of memories with him (from racing against him in go-karts). The first memory I have with Anthoine was my first ever French championship race, where there was Esteban, Pierre and Anthoine. Anthoine won that race. I was second until the last corner, where I crashed with Esteban. But these are memories I will always remember.
Karting were very good days, especially ones when we were that young; in between sessions every driver used to play together. That’s the first memory I have of Anthoine and probably one of the best.’’
‘’When I come to Spa, I think more to Anthoine than my first win. I remember last year's race where I had Anthoine in my mind for quite a big part of the race. It will be exactly the same this weekend."
10 years ago ❤️ pic.twitter.com/0kwSEXfvwf— Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) August 26, 2020
Nicholas Latifi took part in that fateful F2 race last year and the Canadian admitted last year’s accident was very much in his thoughts: “There’s definitely a bit of lingering, overshadowing emotion coming back here. I was in the race and immediately after all the events had happened for sure there was a thought of knowing that it could have been any one of us in that race had things unfolded differently.’’
“It’s definitely different. Even on the track walk this morning, walking up the hill, I definitely had a glance over to the barrier at Eau Rouge and you do have those thoughts that come back a bit. I think everyone is definitely going to be racing in his honour.”
George Russell was teammates with Anthoine Hubert at ART in GP3 back in 2017 and is anticipating ‘’an emotional weekend following the tragic incidents of last year.”
“It definitely overshadows your excitement of driving what is one of the best circuits on the calendar. But nevertheless we’ll be going out there racing in Anthoine’s honour and I’ll be driving as quick as I can to put on a show for him as we always do.”