October 9, 2019

Charles Leclerc digs deep to shine a light on dark Belgian GP weekend

It was a weekend for everyone at Spa. What should happen to be a joyous and thrilling yield in the few summer holidays turned into a sombre and heartbreaking weekend in which the young Formula 2 driver Anthoine Hubert was hurt in a accident on Saturday.
For Anthoine Hubert was also a star on the ladder to Formula 1. His Father Francois was a rally driver but Anthoine took on the race track rather, winning the F4 title in his very first season of racing.
Drivers: ” We hurried for Hubert
The 22-year-old Frenchman won the GP3 Championship last season and was rewarded with a contract using the Renault F1 team’s Driver Academy. Anthoine graduated to F2 and impressed winning on home soil in France and at Monaco, and was in line for a chair with one of the best teams at the F2 string for second year.
I personally didn’t really know Anthoine – by all accounts he was a popular and beautiful guy, although I had just met him a few times in the paddock with a few friends. I had been interviewing Charles Leclerc after Qualifying at the Skypad neither of us understood how terrible it was and as soon as the accident happened or in fact that it turned out to be. You were advised by the reaction from greats like Alain Prost and Lewis Hamilton how shaken we are nowadays once we lose a motorist.
There were a lot of people of the paddock – in our Sky F1 team – and on societal media who wondered how drivers can continue driving at high speeds through the exact same corners and accepting the very exact risks. This ability to detach from the world and focus when you put your helmet is what makes racing drivers unique.
I have been fortunate that in 18 decades of driving race cars, I’ve only once been involved in a race where someone was killed. This was Allan Simonsen at Le Mans in 2013 and I remember hearing about it just as I’d put my helmet on and also my team-mate Brendon Hartley came to shift and get in the vehicle. The fact that I had to drive off and keep focused for the next 22 hours meant that I and all the drivers at the race – managed to continue driving flat out without thinking about the dangers we were taking.
It is a mechanism which their brain is engaged in by most racing drivers. That feeling ‘it won’t occur to us’ but every so often, tragically we are reminded by the sport of the threats lurking just around the corner.
If you talk with Sir Jackie Stewart about the era he raced in, he’ll tell you losing friends and competitions almost on a monthly basis was not uncommon and it’s thanks to people like him and the FIA that we haven’t lost as many drivers recently. There’ll be a complete investigation of course and there’ll be lessons which all people is able to learn but regrettably motor sport is dangerous and also every single motorist – Anthoine comprised – takes the dangers.
In terms of the Grand Prix itself, it was great to visit Charles Leclerc get. He has driven superbly all during this season and following the disappointment of losing possible wins in Baku Bahrain and Austria, it was good to see him get one over the line. Charles was devastating in Qualifying, beating his World Champion team mate for this time and its sixth successive Qualifying with a of a moment.
At the race he managed to split with better pace and much better tyre administration away from Sebastian. It turned out to be a mighty performance when Hamilton started to close down the gap, but it got a bit tricky at the conclusion.
Ferrari were not conducting more downforce compared to Mercedes and that of course made it hard for them to overtake. It meant that they and we had great speed and a cat and mouse game in which a single car was obviously quicker than another at various areas of the 40, respectively.
There’s not a lot more that Mercedes could have achieved – possibly a stop one lap earlier would have decreased the deficit to Leclerc by a few seconds but it’s not a race which they can be criticised by you about a lot.
Vettel seemed to endure with tyre degradation over his young team-mate and I wonder if perhaps Ferrari could have attempted to run somewhat more downforce merely to help him at the twistier middle sector of the lap because the benefit they had about the entire power run during the first sector was absolutely massive.
As soon as we go to Monza weekend, Ferrari must have more of an advantage. There are corners than we have at Spa and much more to the point, just a few long corners that’s the point where the Mercedes’ front end grip is a good step better than the automobiles that are red. They’d need to do something very wrong to not provide a victory before their tifosi week!
Lando Norris was unlucky to not get a good outcome whereas Alex Albon inherited the location in the conclusion. The Thai motorist did a fantastic job on his first outing with the group – he was less than three tenths slower than Max Verstappen in Qualifying until he donned his lap at the end on account of the grid penalties which turned out to be a very good effort for his first semester in the car.
In the race, he bided his time on and then made strong improvement in the second half to record a career best outcome.
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