Remembering Anthoine Hubert: 1996 – 2019

by Aaron Gillard

On 31 August 2019, Motorsport lost a bright talent destined for the top of the sport. During the FIA Formula 2 feature race at Spa-Francorchamps, Anthoine Hubert was involved in a high-speed accident at the top of the Raidillon corner on the second lap. Tragically, the injuries he sustained in the accident he would succumb to, passing away at the age of 22 years old.

Hubert was a driver with supreme talent and in the last year and a half, has showcased his abilities within the GP3 Series and Formula 2. The results he achieved create a spotlight around the paddock, with top teams itching for his signature for next year in F2.

But we’ll never know what could be for Hubert. A bright talent has taken away from us too soon, we’ll never know what the future would of hold for the Lyon-born driver.

Hubert was never like the big names compare to Nyck de Vries or Mick Schumacher within F2 but was a driver who was capable of getting the job done – even with the smallest of budgets or facing the toughest of competitions.

Credit: Joe Portlock/LAT Images/FIA Formula 2

Born on the 22nd September of 1996, Hubert had Motorsport in his blood. His father was a Rally driver, but Anthoine would make his career within Karting, starting at age nine. In his first full year in single-seaters, Hubert won the French Formula 4 Championship, notching eleven wins and thirteen podium finishes.

He would make the jump up to Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 for two years, before progressing to FIA European Formula 3 with Van Amersfoort Racing. His only season in the Championship saw him claim one win at the Norisring and ending eighth overall, but he did enough to impress the likes of ART Grand Prix, who signed him on to their four-car roster for 2017 to partner alongside Jack Aitken, George Russell and Nirei Fukuzumi.

Hubert ended his debut season in GP3 Series fourth-best but was part of a successful and dominant ART squad that conquered the series and secured the team’s title with ease. Despite no wins, Hubert collected four trips to the rostrum and was one of three drivers that fought in an incredible battle for the win at Monza, going up against Russell and Aitken.

For the following season, Hubert stayed in GP3 with ART but caught the attention of Renault, who signed him on as an affiliated driver for the year. But to earn a spot within their academy, he’ll need to step up and win the series. He did exactly that.

Going up against new team-mates in Nikita Mazepin and Callum Ilott, Hubert was able to deliver a level of consistency, claim two wins and push for podiums on a regular basis. That’s what won him the GP3 title. He was able to deliver consistent results, scoring in every race barring four races. It was enough to secure him the title with one race to spare, becoming the last ever GP3 series champion.

His efforts of winning the 2018 GP3 Series earned him a spot within the Renault Drivers’ Academy, partnering alongside Aitken and Guanyu Zhou. He landed a seat with BWT Arden, a team who in the past few years have struggled. But Hubert’s superb rookie season has pushed the team up the pecking order, sitting fifth overall in the team’s standings.

Hubert performed so well, he managed to collect two race wins. His first being at Monaco in the sprint race, beating Louis Delétraz at the narrowest of margins to the finish line. At the next round – his home race in France, Hubert wanted to leave Paul Ricard with a dream win but knew any chance of that happening would be a challenge. He did exactly that in a dominant display in the sprint race.

It was a victory that saw lots of smiles in the paddock and within the French crowd. Flags of the tricolour waved for Hubert, in honour of his win. On the podium, Hubert coated himself with a flag of his country, smiling towards his French people. It was like he won a championship again. A special moment for him and for his Arden team, who have made big leaps since the appointment of Hubert and with HWA Race Labs on board.

Anthoine Hubert celebrating the win on home soil in 2019. Credit: Joe Portlock/LAT Images/FIA Formula 2

His performances saw him gain interest from other teams within F2, despite the small budget he provides. He personally aimed to go for the title, citing a top seat in the series in order to achieve this. He already had discussions with a few teams to join for 2020, but it is unknown who and what the outcome is now. Renault was impressed by his results that they started doing some F1 test programs with him, alongside fellow academy driver Zhou and Max Fewtrell.

The prospect of racing in Formula 1 was always the dream for Hubert to achieve – even if it maybe a long shot at times. But there was no doubt with the level of results and speed he was displaying throughout his GP3 and F2 campaigns, the noise couldn’t be ignored for much longer.

But sadly, the events of the F2 feature race that transpired saw a bright star, destined for great things for the future of French Motorsport was gone.

For many, he was a driver. To a few within the paddock, the team, his friends and family around the world, they lost a friend. An idol. A figure. A son. A brother. A day after the tragic events, Hubert’s mother and brother were in attendance at Spa as the whole community of Motorsport united to pay their respects to Anthoine.

Credit: Joe Portlock/LAT Images/FIA Formula 2

Stickers with ‘Racing With Anthoine’ were placed on the F1 drivers’ helmets and on their cars. A minute silence was given before the FIA Formula 3 and F1 race, with all drivers, team bosses and leading figures gathered to remember Anthoine. On the 19th lap of the Belgian Grand Prix, fans clapped as part of a standing ovation for Hubert – the 19 being the race number he had with Arden.

The majority of media sessions and releases were halted and were filled with tributes towards Anthoine, including one from Renault – the very Academy team he was apart of.

“Our thoughts are with Anthoine’s friends and family at this tragic time. Anthoine was a bright young man,” said Cyril Abiteboul, Renault Sport’s Managing Director.

“His performance and conduct on and off track was that of a true gentleman and it was a pleasure and honour to have had him within our Academy.

“He will be sorely missed by our teams at Enstone and Viry. His spirit will remain with the team and we will race in his memory.”

Arden released a statement soon after, as well as expressing their wishes to Juan Manuel Correa, who was involved in the accident with Hubert at the top of Raidillon.

“On behalf of everyone at Arden, we are in complete shock and extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to Anthoine’s family and friends,” commented Garry Horner, BWT Arden owner.

“Anthoine was a very bright talent and an incredibly well liked member of our team and the Renault Junior programme. We also extend our thoughts to the family of Juan-Manuel as he remains in hospital.”

Tatiana Calderón, Hubert’s team-mate at Arden and once competitor during the GP3 days together, paid tribute to Hubert online, saying it has been a privilege to be his team-mate for this year.

“No words can describe today,” said Calderón via Twitter. “Anthoine it’s been a privilege to have you as a teammate and to share the track with you the last couple of years.

Arden boss Kenny Kirwan, Tatiana Calderon and Anthoine Hubert walking towards the F2 Paddock together
Credit: Joe Portlock/LAT Images/FIA Formula 2

“A true champion, an even greater person, you will always be in our hearts. RIP Anthoine. Thoughts and prays are with his family”

His unexpected and tragic passing serves as a cold reminder of the dangers Motorsport can be at times, no matter how advanced technology and protection safety for the drivers can be – the sport is dangerous to everyone and can never be safe.

Incidents like these are very rare, thanks to the improvement in innovation and technology to help protect the drivers as freakishly high speed. But we can only do so much to stop accidents and keep them safe. Unpredictable accidents and scenarios are hard to predict, presenting the dangers once again to our sport.

But these drivers know the risks when they are strapped in a car, preparing to tackle against one another at over 100MPH. The reward in winning within Motorsport is so sweet because of the risk and dangers it presents. Every ticket, paddock pass, magazine, sign you see at a race track has those three words; Motorsport is Dangerous. The series and the FIA will look into what happened and will find ways to ensure a repeat doesn’t happen to anyone else.

Having covered Formula 2 since 2018 and writing as a Journalist since 2017, the 2019 F2 Belgium feature race was hard to accept and face, seeing a driver you’ve met and covered on suddenly disappear. I was broken. Lost. I didn’t know what to think.

My dearest memory of Hubert would be at the 2018 F2/GP3 season finale Gala at Abu Dhabi, where Hubert collected his GP3 Series title. Around 12AM, I was about to leave and say goodbye to a few people I knew within the paddock. Suddenly, a group of mechanics from ART Grand Prix and Hubert surrounded us, celebrating.

https://twitter.com/AaronGillard_17/status/1167851333409476608

They were filling the trophy with any drink they could find. Heineken, Sol, Champagne. Anything went in and they drank out of it. They offered me a try. I took a swig and it was horrible. But it didn’t matter, they were having the time of their lives.

I wouldn’t see Hubert again until Silverstone this year when I attended the Grand Prix as Media for Formula 2. I saw Hubert, wishing a good morning and best of luck for the weekend. He replied with ‘Thank you and you too mate.’ After the sprint race, I met Kenny Kirwan (Arden’s F2 team boss) as we travelled back to the support pits. We talked about many things but one of them was about Hubert and how much of a great job he is doing. We both agreed on how much of a talent he was and how great he has been to the team, giving hope to Arden again.

Both Kenny and Anthoine had a relationship that was special between the two. The pair were often pictured with each other and with Hubert’s win in France, Kenny was on the podium with him. I can’t imagine what Arden and Kenny are going through during this difficult period.

Our thoughts go to the Hubert family and friends, including Julie – Hubert’s partner. I also want to pass my thoughts to Arden, as well as everyone within FIA Formula 2.

Motorsport has lost a future talent. But it is important that we remember him for what he’s done in his career and that his memory lives on. He was a fantastic and intelligent driver who knew the ins and outs of the sport, a fanatic in cycling and for his football club Lyon. The black-rimmed glasses he often wore outside of the cockpit were a part of him and his sense of humour with his fellow drivers, mechanics, and journalists within the series was something everyone enjoyed about him.

Charles Leclerc, a friend of Anthoine during their karting days, won the Belgian Grand Prix, his first in F1 and a day after his friend’s passing. He dedicated his victory to Anthoine – a show of class from the Monacquese driver.

Hubert will be sadly missed in the F2 paddock and within the Motorsport community. He will forever be a champion. Rest in Peace Anthoine Hubert.

Anthoine Hubert 22/09/1996 – 31/08/2019
Credit: Joe Portlock/LAT Images/FIA Formula 2

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