SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS • The motor racing world is mourning the death of Formula Two driver Anthoine Hubert, who was killed following a heavy crash at the Belgian Grand Prix on Saturday.
The 22-year-old Frenchman, who raced for the British-owned Arden team, died after an estimated 257kmh collision with American Juan-Manuel Correa's car on Lap 2 at the exit of the Raidillon corner, one of the fastest sections of the quick Spa-Francorchamps track.
Both Hubert's and Correa's cars were severed in two following the crash, with Correa's car flipped upside down. Hubert's car sustained a huge impact and spun around violently, as did Correa's, and debris from both cars was sprayed all over the track. Medics rushed to reach them on the 7km track located in the Ardennes forest.
As other drivers swerved around the mangled wreckage of both cars, the race was cancelled a few minutes later.
Motor racing's governing body FIA said Hubert "succumbed to his injuries, and passed away at 18:35" local time.
Tributes poured in for Hubert, with five-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton writing on Instagram: "If a single one of you watching and enjoying this sport think for a second what we do is safe, you are hugely mistaken. All these drivers put their lives on the line when they hit the track and people need to appreciate that in a serious way because it is not appreciated enough.
"Not from the fans nor some of the people actually working in the sport. Anthoine is a hero as far as I'm concerned for taking the risk he did to chase his dreams."
Hubert, considered a serious talent by Renault's F1 set-up, won two F2 races this season and was eighth in the championship standings.
French driver Esteban Ocon, who has joined the Renault F1 team for next season, tweeted: "Can't believe it, we are the same age, we started racing together and battled on track for years. All my thoughts go to his family."
The FIA's statement also said that Correa - a 20-year-old in his rookie season with the Sauber Junior team-was "in a stable condition" and being treated at Liege hospital. Giuliano Alesi, a 19-year-old rookie and son of former F1 Ferrari driver Jean Alesi, was checked and declared fit at the on-site medical centre.
The FIA is investigating the fatal accident, which happened in good weather and dry track conditions.
Formula One was also hit by tragedy in July 2015 when French driver Jules Bianchi died nine months after a head-on collision with a track-side crane at the rain-soaked Japanese GP at Suzuka.
Deaths have hit other motor racing series in recent years. British IndyCar driver Justin Wilson died in August 2015, a day after being hit on the helmet by debris from another car at Pocono Raceway. In 2011, British IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon died of a head injury at Las Vegas when his car flipped cockpit-first into the fence and his head struck a pole.
ASSOCIATED PRESS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE