Charles Leclerc has dedicated his first Formula 1 victory in the 2019 Belgian Grand Prix to his friend Anthoine Hubert, who sadly passed away following a crash in the weekend’s first Formula 2 race.
Leclerc, who grew up racing against Hubert, claimed the victory from his third pole-position of the year, resisting a late challenge from Lewis Hamilton. The Monegasque held the lead at the start of the race, getting the jump on Scuderia Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel.
Leclerc maintained the lead following an early safety car period courtesy of Max Verstappen‘s stricken car, and would only lose first place when Vettel gained an under-cut following an early pit-stop.
Vettel gifted the lead back to Leclerc at the start of lap twenty-seven and the twenty-one year-old held on to take his first grand prix victory at his thirty-fourth attempt, dedicating it to the late Hubert.
“It is difficult to enjoy a first victory on a weekend like this,” said Leclerc. “I grew up with Anthoine, and we competed in our first karting race together with Pierre (Gasly) and Esteban (Ocon) in 2005. These are memories I will keep forever.
“Losing him yesterday was a huge shock, not only to me but to everyone in motorsport. In a way, I am satisfied having won today to remember him in the way he should be remembered. He was a champion, and this victory is for him.”
Of the race itself, Leclerc says Ferrari have made gains, despite a lack of pace compared to Lewis Hamilton in the latter stages of the race.
“The race itself was good and nothing would have been possible without the amazing car the team gave me. We made good improvements in terms of race pace and tyre management this weekend.
“The last few laps weren’t easy. I saw Lewis coming closer and closer in the mirror, so I put my head down and tried to focus on the work I had to do in the car. At the end, I managed to cross the line in first place and I’d like to thank the team for the hard work they have put in to make this possible.”
Leclerc’s victory sees him close in on team-mate Vettel in fourth in the drivers’ standings with the younger Ferrari man now just twelve points behind.
Despite claiming their first win of the season, Ferrari sit a mammoth 145-points adrift of Mercedes-AMG Motorsport in the constructors’ standings heading to Monza and the 2019 Italian Grand Prix; a must win for the Scuderia.