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Anthoine Hubert: Daniel Ricciardo says he had doubts about racing after Frenchman’s death

By Andrew Benson |BBC Sports|

Daniel Ricciardo says he had doubts about racing in the Belgian Grand Prix following the crash that killed Formula 2 driver Anthoine Hubert.

F1 drivers held a minute's silence before Sunday's race
F1 drivers held a minute’s silence before Sunday’s race

Hubert died after a high-speed crash in the Formula 2 race on Saturday, shortly after Formula 1 qualifying finished.

Renault driver Ricciardo said: “You question: ‘Is it really worth it?’

“Yeah, 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.”

Hubert crashed at the top of the hill at the infamous Raidillon corner, the end of the celebrated Eau Rouge swerves, which F1 cars take at more than 180mph.

Race winner Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, who had known Hubert since childhood, admitted that it was “quite a challenge to close the visor and go through this exact same corner at the exact same speed you do the day before – but that’s what you need to do at the end”.

And the 21-year-old admitted that it was “very difficult” to enjoy his first F1 win in the circumstances.

Ricciardo said he was “glad the race was over”.

The 30-year-old Australian said: “I know, weirdly enough, the best way we could kind of show our respect was to race, but I don’t think any of us actually wanted to be here, or wanted to race – at least, I’m speaking for myself, but I’m sure I’m not the only one.

“It was tough. It was certainly tough to be here and try to put on a brave face for everyone.

“I know a lot of people in the paddock are hurting. I think everyone’s relieved it’s done and we can move on from here and hopefully it’s the last time this stuff happens.”

McLaren’s Lando Norris, who lost fifth place when his engine failed on the final lap, said he had also had doubts.

“I didn’t feel great ahead of the race,” said Norris. “What happened on Saturday could happen to any of us. It could have been me last year racing in Formula 2. When you think like that, it starts shaking you.

“Maybe some people take it better than others, but I didn’t take it too well.

“At the end of the day, my job is to race for the team. I still need to live my life, move on and do things that sometimes I don’t want to do. I wanted to race, but at the same time I felt so sorry for everyone involved. I don’t even like talking about it.

“He was a racer like we all are but he was just the unlucky guy. It was very unexpected, and something that is so rare, but at the same time it could still happen in Formula 1.”

Governing body the FIA has launched an investigation into the accident.

Race director Michael Masi said: “Safety is ever evolving. Once different technologies become available, different materials become available, safety is an ever evolving process. For me it is something that will never end.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it: Safety is one of the core pillars of the FIA, part of why they exist. That was something that just won’t stop. We’ll continue to research and look at things and improve things as best we can.”

This could be a wake-up call – Stewart

Meanwhile, three-time world champion Sir Jackie Stewart believes F1 drivers are taking too many risks.

“In my view, there have been far too many incidents over the last 24 or 36 months because there has never been a penalty to the extent we saw this weekend,” Stewart, 80, told the PA news agency.

“We have seen wings broken, cars going up in air. It even happened on Sunday when Max Verstappen collided with Kimi Raikkonen on the first lap.

“The drivers might now be prepared to recognise that they will have to take fewer liberties because you should never start thinking you are bulletproof. You cannot think you are going to get off with it all the time. This could be a wake-up call.”

Stewart was in Belgium and watched Saturday’s tragedy unfold alongside Frenchman Alain Prost. The four-time world champion is Renault’s non-executive director and oversaw Hubert’s blossoming career.

Brazilian great Ayrton Senna was the last driver to die during an F1 race weekend when he perished at Imola in 1994 and both Stewart and Prost were pallbearers at his funeral. There was not another driver death in F1 until 2015 when Jules Bianchi died nine months after suffering severe head injuries in a crash at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.

Commenting on Hubert’s crash, Stewart added: “I was with Alain just after the crash.

“We spoke on the grid, too, and we were both very sad. It felt like ‘play it again, Sam’, and that we were turning back the clock.

“Things have moved on extremely well from my day where death was part and parcel of the business.

“The number of drivers you see walk away from huge crashes are now ten-a-penny, and that is fantastic. But every now and then, the wrong accident occurs, and that is what happened here.”