Leclerc expecting ‘difficult’ return to Spa amid mixed emotions

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc heads to Spa with a blend of positive and sad memories, a year on from his maiden F1 triumph at the Belgian track and the tragic loss of his friend Anthoine Hubert.

The young French driver lost his life in a horrendous crash that took place in the F2 feature race, and his loss was felt throughout the paddock, by his rivals and many of his friends in F1, including Leclerc.

“The Spa-Francorchamps circuit has a special place in my heart,” said the Monegasque ahead of this week’s Belgian Grand Prix.

“While it is here that I took my first win, it is also where we lost our friend Anthoine last year. It will be difficult to return to this track and he will be in our thoughts all weekend.”

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AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, who shared a flat with Hubert during their days together in the junior formulae, echoed Leclerc’s feelings.

“Spa is my favourite track and racing through all those high-speed corners is a great thrill,” said the Frenchman. “I really enjoy driving it and have had great races there in the past.

“However, this year, returning to Belgium will also be a sad moment, because it is just one year ago that Anthoine lost his life after that terrible accident in the F2 race in Spa.

“I had known him since I was seven years old in karting, we were in the same school together organised by the French motorsport federation, from when I was 13 to 19, and we shared an apartment for six years.

“I think everyone in the paddock will take time to think of him.”

McLaren drivers Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris were certainly thinking about the young Frenchman this week.

“We’ll take the time to remember Anthoine, who sadly passed away there last year,” said Sainz. “He was an exciting young talent that was taken from us too soon, and we’ll always remember him wherever we race, but even more in Spa.”

“This weekend we take the time to remember Anthoine Hubert, who tragically lost his life at Spa last year,” concurred Norris. “The whole racing community was shocked and saddened by what happened, and he’ll be in our thoughts as we go racing again this year.”

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