Daniel Ricciardo has admitted that he “didn’t really want to be here” at the Belgian Grand Prix after the tragic death of French driver Anthoine Hubert on Saturday.
- Daniel Ricciardo admitted to having second thoughts about racing at Spa
- Charles Leclerc won his first Grand Prix
- Leclerc was dedicated his victory to his friend Anthoine Hubert, who was killed on Saturday
Teams observed a minute’s silence before the race, during which Hubert’s mother and brother stood holding his racing helmet in front of visibly emotional drivers and pit staff.
Supporters also stood and applauded during the 19th lap of the race. Hubert’s driver number in F2 was 19.
“I feel good that this race is over,” Ricciardo said.
F1 tweet: Today we race. We do so with the heaviest of hearts, and we carry the memory of Anthoine throughout.
“This morning, [I] didn’t really know how I felt about being here, I didn’t really want to be here.
“I think I can probably speak for most of us but, strangely enough, I think competing today was the best way we could probably show our respects.
“It’s weird, it’s been really strange.
“I’m glad it’s over and we can move on now.”
Ricciardo even admitted that he thought about not racing.
“You question, ‘is it really worth it?’, for sure,” Ricciardo told the Autosport website.
“Because at the end of the day, it’s a simple question, but it’s a pretty honest one as well.
“Yeah, it’s our job and it’s our profession and it’s our life, but also it’s still just racing cars around in circles.”
“To be honest, seeing some of his family here today, that’s what gave me more strength than anything else.
“I could not imagine being in their position, I felt they were a lot stronger than any of us today.”
The Belgian Grand Prix started on a sombre note as Anthoine Hubert’s family lead a minutes silence. (Reuters: Francois Lenoir)
Emotional Leclerc claims maiden win
Charles Leclerc claimed Ferrari’s first race victory since Kimi Raikkonen won last October’s US Grand Prix, holding off a fast-finishing Lewis Hamilton to win by just 0.981 seconds.
The 21-year-old became the third-youngest winner of a F1 race of all time behind Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel.
Despite being thrilled to claim his maiden victory in the premier class, the moment was bitter sweet for the Monegasque driver, who grew up racing with Hubert.
“Since I was a child I’ve been looking up to Formula 1, dreaming to be first a Formula 1 driver … then driving for Ferrari this year, and then the first win today,” Leclerc said after the race.
“It’s a good day, but on the other hand, as I said, losing Anthoine yesterday brings me back to 2005, my first ever French championship.
“There was him, Esteban [Ocon], Pierre [Gasly] and myself. We were four kids that were dreaming of Formula 1.
“We grew up in karting for many, many years, and to lose him yesterday was a big shock for me but obviously for everyone in motorsport, so it was a very sad day.
“We lose someone on track, a track where you need to race the day after. It’s obviously quite challenging to then close the visor and go through the exact same corner [where the crash happened].”
Pierre Gasly, who finished in ninth on his return to Torro Rosso after being dumped mid-season from the Red Bull team, also paid his respects to Hubert after the race.
“This was the most emotional race of my career, it was important for me to deliver the best performance I could for Anthoine,” Gasly said.
“In the end it was a good result and I’m happy to get two points on my first race back with Toro Rosso … and I’m really happy to score these two points, for the team and for Anthoine.”
Juan Manuel Correa, who was also seriously injured in the crash that killed Hubert, is currently recovering in hospital after undergoing surgery to repair “fractures to both of his legs and a minor spinal injury.”
Hamilton extends championship lead
By finishing second, Hamilton extended his championship lead over teammate Valtteri Bottas to 65 points after the Finn came home third, ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen crashed out on the first lap at Eau Rouge after making contact with Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo, to fall a distant 87 points behind Hamilton in the standings.
The other Red Bull, driven by Alex Albon — his first race in the car after his mid-season promotion from Torro Rosso — came home in fifth having started in 17th on the grid, including a daring overtake via the grass on Racing Point’s Sergio Perez.
Lando Norris had been set to finish in his highest ever position of fifth only to suffer engine failure on the final lap.
Meanwhile, Ricciardo’s race was compromised after a first lap collision, with the Australian eventually finishing in 14th spot.
“Our race was pretty much shaped after the lap one, turn one incident,” Ricciardo told the Renault team website after the race.
“I got hit from behind and had big damage to the floor. We had to pit, I actually thought we might retire the car, but we put the mediums [tyres] on and the car was a bit of a handful.
“We kept going, held our place in the top ten, and I thought at one stage we might pick up some points.
“I was proud to hold on for that long and I know we couldn’t have done anymore.”
Ricciardo’s teammate Nico Hulkenberg, who found out before the race weekend that he would be replaced at Renault next season by Esteban Ocon, finished in eighth.