Motorsport is one of the safest forms of sport on the planet, with every precaution taken to ensure the safety of drivers and trackside members. Sadly, tragically, occasionally even these stringent precautions aren’t enough. Formula 2 driver Anthoine Hubert, a 22 year old French born driver, died after a collision with other cars during a race not long after the F1 qualifying sessions. His car had rebounded off the trackside barriers and back onto the track. The position of his car was such that a following driver was unable to steer away and the impact tore Hubert’s car into two.
Anthoine was highly regarded and respected by many other drivers across the Formulas 3,2, and 1 categories. Formula 1 championship leader Lewis Hamilton posted this heartfelt tribute:“Anthoine is a hero as far as I’m concerned, for taking the risk he did to chase his dreams. I’m so sad that this has happened. Let’s lift him up and remember him. Rest in peace brother.”
There already had been drama prior to the incident, with Friday’s practice and the qualifying session seeing cars lose their powerplants in spectacular fashion. Lance Stroll had a section of his car come adrift during practice as well. Alexander Albon, Daniel Ricciardo, Nico Hulkenberg, Carlos Sainz, Lance Stroll and Daniil Kvyat will all cop grid penalties after replacing engine components prior to Sunday’s race. Hulkenberg, Ricciardo and Sainz each drop five grid places whilst Stroll, Albon and Kvyat start from back of grid .
Robert Kubica was one of those that had his engine go up in flames, and unfortunately for the Polish driver, it was during Q1, meaning the stewards will make a decision on his eligibility to drive. Q1 itself saw Kubica’s co-driver, George Russell, Daniil Kvyat, Carlos Sainz, the recently demoted Pierre Gasly, and Antonio Giovinazzi fail to make it to Q2.
Romain Grosjean can count himself unlucky to not start from P10 or higher, missing out by 0.06 of a second on making it through, with his time of 1:44.797 seeing his Haas team mate Kevin Magnussen, with 1:44.738, rounding out the top ten, and Grosjean securing 11th. Lando Norris, Lance Stroll, and Alexander Albon, in his first Red Bull qualifying, will fill in the slots between 11th and 15th.
Sergio Perez consolidated 9th with consistent Q2 and Q3 times of 1:44.707 and 1:44.706. Kimi Raikkonen had suffered a leg injury during the break, however showed no sign of that for 8th. His Q2 time was 6/10ths ahead of Perez, and 2/10ths in Q3. Nico Hulkenberg echoed Perez, with his Q2 and Q3 times also within shouting distance on 1:44.549 and 1:44.542 for him to start from 7th. Ricciardo was marginally quicker than his team mate, and was fast enough to start 6th before the penalty.
The top five positions went to drivers that all finished Q3 in the 1:43s. Max Verstappen will be in P5, behind the Mercedes duo of Valterri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton. Sebastian Vettel will start from P2, with Charles Leclerc some 7/10ths ahead of his Prancing Horse team mate. Leclerc’s flyer was a 1:42.519, compared to Vettel’s 1:43.267.
Leclerc was measured in his response to his pole position, with weather conditions due to change for the race and leading to a possible swing the advantage back to the silver cars. “The gap is quite big today but it doesn’t mean it will be like that tomorrow so we will be working hard to improve the race run on yesterday and we’ll see.” said Leclerc.
Over at Mercedes, Bottas was upbeat, with a belief that he or Hamilton can win. “Honestly, I’m optimistic for tomorrow,” he said. “The long runs looked good yesterday. We can definitely fight for the win from P3 and P4.” Hamilton was equally optimistic. “I think a bit of their straight line speed, which is where generally all the speed is, it’s usually not there so much in the race, so hopefully we’ll be there or thereabouts with them tomorrow and can put in, maybe, some interesting strategies. We’ll see.” With Mercedes leading the championship by 150 points, Ferrari will need both of their drivers to work with the cars, the team orders, and each other, if they’re to stave off two hungry Mercedes drivers.
Then there’s Verstappen. The young Dutchman will be energised after the break, plus he’ll be racing with a new team mate in the shape of Alexander Albon. Although P5 seems a long way from the front, Verstappen has shown plenty of pluck and grit. “Of course tomorrow is going to be a different day in terms of temperatures, so it’s a little bit difficult to predict how we are going to perform.” said Verstappen. However, he also will be running an older Honda engine, whereas Albon took place penalties to race with a new powerplant.
The race starts at 15:10 local time on Sunday September 1. Vale, Anthoine Hubert.