Anthoine Hubert

Anthoine Hubert racing in GP3 at Spa-Francorchamps last year

I can’t pretend I was following Anthoine Hubert’s career closely. I don’t have the time to follow Formula 2 as much these days. But when I learned about his death during yesterday’s F2 race it I found it very upsetting.

Last year, I attended this race. I watched Anthoine Hubert get podium finishes in both of last year’s GP3 races. I took photos and videos of him racing.

From where I was sitting, I could just about see the top of Raidillon, where the accident happened yesterday. After the race last year, we sat up there. It’s a special corner, partly because (as I wrote last year) it’s so fearsome.

An incident like this makes me face up to the realities, and question what it is I enjoy about the sport.

The BBC’s Andrew Benson explained “why the motorsport ‘family’ races on” in situations like this.

The sport they love brings them incredible highs and, as on Saturday, awful lows. The combination of all that is – whatever one may think of it – what makes it so thrillingly, awfully, terribly, tragically, special.

Both Formula 2 races were cancelled, apparently at the request of the teams. But Formula 3 and Formula 1 went ahead.

There is a tendency to imagine that motorsport is quite safe these days. Yesterday’s incident is a reminder that it is not.

Thankfully, deaths are nowadays relatively rare. But not rare enough. In the past 20 years, three marshals and one F1 driver have died in incidents during a grand prix weekend.

But what makes this one so shocking is not just the fact that it happened, but that it isn’t immediately apparent anything could be done to stop it happening again.

The crumb of comfort is that the FIA will thoroughly investigate it and understand what can be learnt from it.

It’s fitting that the winner of the Belgian Grand Prix was Charles Leclerc. It’s his first grand prix victory, and it’s overdue.

Tragedy seems to have followed Leclerc. His godfather, Jules Bianchi, was the last person to die as a result of an F1 crash. Leclerc was also close to Anthoine Hubert.

But also, Leclerc almost certainly had his life saved by the halo at last year’s Belgian Grand Prix. The halo was only brought in last year, and many opposed this crucial safety feature on spurious (largely aesthetic) grounds. In that alternate reality where the halo wasn’t brought in, Charles Leclerc would no longer be with us either.

Charles Leclerc’s victory is a tribute to motorsport’s ongoing quest to continuously improve safety — a quest that should never end.

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