Leclerc dedicates win to fallen colleague
BRUSSELS. — Wearing a black armband as he stood on the top step of a Formula One podium for the first time in his career, Charles Leclerc pointed to the sky to acknowledge Anthoine Hubert, the young French driver killed at Spa-Francorchamps.
There was no customary champagne spraying. The motor racing world was in mourning.
“On one hand a childhood dream has been realised,” said Leclerc. “On the other hand it has been a very difficult weekend. I have lost a friend. I would like to dedicate my first win to him.”
Two hours earlier, Leclerc had lined shoulder to shoulder with the sport’s grief-ridden community for an emotional one-minute silence in honour of his contemporary.
The 22-year-old Hubert died at 6.35pm on Saturday evening following a catastrophic 160mph Formula Two crash at the fearsome Eau Rouge corner.
Hubert’s distraught mother, Nathalie took centre stage on the grid.
Dressed in a green jumper, blue jeans, and hiding her eyes behind a dark pair of sunglasses, Nathalie was at the scene of her son’s death after making the five-hour car journey from her home outside Paris to Belgium.
She held her son’s pink and white crash helmet. Hubert’s brother Victor, who was trackside with father Francois as Saturday’s desperate tragedy unfolded, cried as he stood alongside her.
Formula One drivers, team bosses and dignitaries formed an arc around the mother and son as silence fell over the Ardennes forest.
Daniel Ricciardo, the usually jovial Australian, kept his eyes closed throughout the reflective pause, before appearing to wipe away tears — his actions summing up the sombre mood here before yesterday’s race.
Leclerc, who is 22 next month, hugged Hubert’s mother.
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto then put an arm around his young star. Speaking prior to the race, Binotto said: “It is not easy for Charles. He knew Hubert very well, but he also knows a win is the best way to keep his head up.”
Leclerc did just that.
He made the perfect start, racing away from pole position.
Leclerc briefly traded places with Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel, owing to different tyre strategies, but once the four-time world champion was ordered aside, the Monegasque’s win rarely looked in doubt — even though Lewis Hamilton ran the youngster close.
Hamilton finished one second behind Leclerc to extend his title lead over Valtteri Bottas, who took third, to 65 points.
Leclerc led as the tens of thousands of spectators at the 4.3-mile track rose to their feet to for a round of heartfelt applause on lap 19. Hubert carried the number 19 on his car. — Telegraph.