In Depth

F1 Belgian GP: Leclerc wins for Ferrari, Albon impresses and drivers pay tribute to Hubert

What we learnt from an emotional weekend at Spa-Francorchamps

Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix 
  • Sunday 1 September, Spa-Francorchamps  
  • 1st: Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)  
  • 2nd: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)  
  • 3rd: Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)  
  • 4th: Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)  
  • 5th: Alexander Albon (Red Bull)
Leclerc wins emotional race at Spa

It should have been the most memorable moment of Charles Leclerc’s racing career, but his maiden victory in Formula 1 was overshadowed by the tragic death of Formula 2 driver Anthoine Hubert.

In Saturday’s F2 race at Spa-Francorchamps, 22-year-old Frenchman Hubert was killed following a high-speed crash. 

Ferrari driver Leclerc dedicated his victory to Hubert and said: “It is very difficult to enjoy this first win with the situation we had [on Saturday]. 

“Overall it means just a dream come true. Since a child, I have been looking up to F1, dreaming of being first a Formula 1 driver, which happened last year and then driving for Ferrari this year and the first win today. 

“It is a good day but on the other hand losing Anthoine brings me back to 2005, my first French [karting] championship was him. It is very difficult to enjoy it fully today but hopefully in two or three weeks I will realise what happened.”

Leclerc’s success at Spa was also Ferrari’s first victory of the 2019 F1 season.

Drivers pay tribute to Hubert

Like Leclerc, Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly also grew up racing alongside close friend Hubert. Gasly said it was difficult to get behind the wheel on Sunday following the previous day’s incident.

“I must say it was really difficult because of course it was in my mind before going in the car and putting the helmet on,” said Gasly.

“I just can’t believe it. I’ve grown up with this guy. I raced in karting with Charles and Anthoine since 2005. Then we lived in the same flat for five years. We went to the same school, in the same classroom. I’ve known this guy so long and we shared so many moments on track, and off track especially.

“Honestly I still can’t believe it. I just need to go back home and I plan already to see all my friends and his friends so we can be reunited together and remember all the great times we had with him.”

F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton, who finished second in Belgium, added: “I didn’t know Anthoine but it just really hit home. I didn’t really sleep a lot [on Saturday night], it was just a really sad day. 

“Seeing his parents, it’s hard to believe he’s gone. He was with us in spirit, and I tried to win the race with him in mind. I hope I did him proud.”

Albon impresses

Alexander Albon finished fifth on his debut for Red Bull Racing. The 23-year-old was promoted from Toro Rosso during the summer break and his first outing in the senior team’s car left Red Bull boss Christian Horner impressed. 

Horner said: “I’ve been very impressed with Alex’s performance all weekend and he put in a great recovery drive from 17th on the grid to finish fifth in his first race with us. 

“He was pretty cautious during the first half of the race as he felt his way into the grand prix, but things started to come alive for him on the softer compound tyre and he put in some great overtakes.”

Lewis extends lead

With his second-placed finish at Spa reigning world champion Hamilton extended his lead at the top of the 2019 F1 drivers’ standings. 

Mercedes ace Hamilton has 268 points from 13 races this season and his team-mate Valtteri Bottas is second with 203 points. Bottas finished third in Belgium.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, who failed to finish at Spa, is third in the drivers’ standings with 181 points. Ferrari duo Sebastian Vettel and Leclerc are fourth and fifth with 169 points and 157 respectively. 

Next race: Italy 

It’s back-to-back races after the summer break with the F1 Italian Grand Prix taking place on Sunday 8 September. The race at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza starts at 2.10pm (UK time). 

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