Motor racing: Belgium opens probe into F2 race death

Drivers and team members observe a minute's silence for late French driver Anthoine Hubert, who died in an accident during a Formula Two race, before the start of the Belgian Formula One Grand Prix in Spa on Sept 1, 2019.
Drivers and team members observe a minute's silence for late French driver Anthoine Hubert, who died in an accident during a Formula Two race, before the start of the Belgian Formula One Grand Prix in Spa on Sept 1, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS (AFP) - Belgian authorities opened a manslaughter inquiry on Monday (Sept 2) two days after the death of French racing driver Anthoine Hubert in a Formula Two race.

It is standard practice in Belgium to launch a probe into "accidental homicide by person unknown" after any fatal road accident, and does not in itself imply criminal charges are likely.

The 22-year-old was killed on Saturday in a crash on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

Hubert's Formula Two race was cancelled, but the Belgian Formula One Grand Prix went ahead on Sunday.

"For the moment, there's nothing to suggest any negligence, but that will be for the experts to determine," said magistrate Gilles de Villers Grand Champs, of the Verviers prosecutor's office.

Several road safety and auto racing experts have been recruited to advise the inquiry.

"From the point where someone had died and the police had made a report, it was necessary for the competent prosecutor to open an objective investigation," the magistrate said.

At the beginning of the second lap of Saturday's race, Hubert was involved in a high-speed collision with US driver Juan Manuel Correa, Frenchman Giuliano Alesi and Japan's Marino Sato.

 
 
 
 

Hubert died from his injuries while Correa was taken to hospital with broken legs and has not yet been questioned, according to the prosecutor.

Sato and Alesi, son of former F1 driver Jean Alesi, were unharmed.

The crash happened on one of the fastest parts of the Belgian circuit, the Raidillon, where the track rises abruptly after a descent.

Hubert was lying in eighth place in the Formula Two championship after 16 events, having won in Monaco in May and in France in June, in races held alongside Grand Prix events.

Meanwhile, Daniel Ricciardo says he considered pulling out of the Belgian Grand Prix after Hubert's death.

It was the first death at a Grand Prix weekend since Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger were killed at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

Jules Bianchi died in July 2015 from injuries he sustained at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.

Australian Ricciardo, who was a friend of Bianchi and raced on that day at Suzuka, admitted he had to ask himself if he really wanted to compete given what was going through his head.

"You question, is it really worth it?" said the Renault driver after finishing 14th on Sunday.

"At the end of the day, it is a simple question but a pretty honest one as well.

"It's our job and it's our profession and it's our life, but also it's still just racing cars around in circles."

He added that the sight of Hubert's family at the minute's silence held at the circuit on Sunday morning had given him strength.

"I could not imagine being in their position, I felt they were a lot stronger than any of us."