Anthoine Hubert was crowned the 2018 GP3 Series Champion at the Yas Marina Circuit on Saturday.
It was the Frenchman’s second year in the championship after finishing fourth in his rookie campaign with ART Grand Prix.
Despite finishing fourth in the championship in 2017 it was a disappointing year for Hubert, who ended the year without a win to his name and needed to step up for 2018.
“After two years in GP3 it’s an achievement that was my target for this season, and I was one of the favourites but you have to work so hard for this, and I did,” said Hubert to gp3series.com.
This is the first title that Hubert has won since 2013 when he claimed the French F4 Championship.
Since then results have been mixed, with Hubert needing to prove himself.
In 2017, he was the most consistent driver on the grid – not scoring on just two occasions out of the fifteen races (the Sprint Race at Monza was cancelled). Hubert needed to build on this form if he was to be in championship contention.
As well, being with ART meant he was already one of the favourites for the title.
“I was really happy at the start of the year to feel that I was a favourite and people were expecting me to be because it didn’t add any pressure, it just gave me some more confidence.
“Coming with the best team added to this, and I have to say a big thank you to them for taking me in a few years ago and even though I was not really happy with how my season went last year they still believed in me.”
However, racing for ART also means his biggest rivals are also his team-mates.
In 2017, the Frenchman lined up alongside eventual champion George Russell, Jack Aitken and Nirei Fukuzumi meaning he was thrown into the deep end right from the start.
“Last year I was close to Jack and Nirei at the end of the season, and if I had been for a second season with them I really believe I could have beat them, although George was really on another level last year.”
After being the only ART driver in 2017 not to take a race victory, Hubert knew he needed to up his game against his new team-mates – Jake Hughes, Callum Ilott and Nikita Mazepin.
“I didn’t expect Nikita to be this good this season but he did a good job, prepared really well, and I think that helped him a lot. I expected Callum to be a bit better, and he did as well: he’s done some good races, and some where he has struggled.”
However, this year, it was not just the ART-show with Campos Racing and Trident posing more of a threat to them which Hubert felt they needed.
“It was nice to have competition not just from the team, where last year we finished 1-2-3-4, and it shows that although ART are a good team if you don’t put a good driver in the car it’s not going to make the job by itself.”
As with any season it comes with its highs and lows, with Hubert’s campaign not proving any different.
His first win, at his home race in Le Castellet which was also the return of the French GP was obviously a stand out weekend.
Although, Hubert holds Silverstone as a fond memory.
“[It] is my favourite track with Spa, where everything was good, especially on Friday where it was my grandfather’s birthday, my first pole in the category, my brother got his baccalaureate, and France won the World Cup [qualification to the semi-final], so the 6th of July was a really good day that I won’t forget!”
Conversely, the round between Le Castellet and Silverstone at the Red Bull Ring was not as memorable.
“It’s the only [podium] cap flag I won’t have! It was a bad weekend, and just small things could have made it better: I missed my qualy, in the race I got touched and I didn’t score any points, and it could have hurt my season but fortunately that was the only one. Most of the rounds were not perfect, but they were good enough to get this result.”
Hubert is also a Renault Sport Academy driver, and receives a lot of backing from the manufacturer with four time Formula One champion Alain Prost offering the younger man his support.
“I’m really happy and proud to have the support of Renault, and to have such a legend as Alain Prost, the best ever French driver, coming to congratulate me is a special feeling. I didn’t know him one year ago, and it’s really a proud moment to have his and their support, I thank them so much for it.”
Due to being a champion, Hubert has to move on from the championship and the next logical step for him will be FIA Formula 2.
A three day post-season test gets underway tomorrow with Hubert getting behind the wheel of the MP Motorsport machine.
The ambition is to go to Formula 2 as that is logical for the GP3 champion.
“If you look at the last few GP3 champions they have gone to the best teams in Formula 2, so we will see.”
As well as being champion, Hubert will go down as the last ever GP3 champion.
The series will merge with the FIA European Formula 3 Championship to create the FIA Formula 3 International Championship.
“Being the last champion is good in some ways, but in others when I’m talking about this title in ten years they will say ‘what is GP3?’”
“But on the other hand the three last champions are or are about to race in Formula 1 so that is an achievement, and it gives me more and more motivation to improve and to do better in the future.”