Sports

Anthoine Hubert F2 Crash

Tragedy struck the motorsport community on Aug. 31 when French Formula 2 driver Anthoine Hubert passed away due to injuries from a high-speed crash at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. Hubert, who was just 22 years old, was participating in the feature race for Formula 2, the top feeder series for Formula 1 where young drivers hone their skills before stepping up to the pinnacle of motorsports.

The crash occurred on the second lap of the race in the notoriously tricky Eau Rouge-Raidillon complex of corners, featuring a downhill dip before a steep incline which the drivers take flat out. The crash was triggered by Giuliano Alesi losing control of his car through Eau Rouge, glancing off the tire wall, and ricocheting back onto the track at the top of the hill.

Seeing this, the following driver, Ralph Boschung, slowed and steered to the right of Alesi’s damaged car. Hubert, who was close behind Boschung, couldn't see the events unfolding ahead of him until he crested the hill, and made an emergency move to the right to try to avoid Boschung’s slow race car. However, Hubert clipped the back of Boschung, sending him into the tire barrier. Hubert’s car bounced off and ended up stranded in the run-off area, perpendicular to the track.

Unfortunately, Juan Manuel Correa, who was behind Hubert, also went to the right of Boschung and Alesi, only to find his path blocked by Hubert’s car. Correa had no time to react, crashing into the side of Hubert’s helpless car at around 160 mph, a terrifying scene that immediately stopped the race. Hubert was pronounced dead at the track, while Correa was sent to the hospital with two broken legs and spinal cord damage. He was placed in an induced coma on Sept. 7 after being diagnosed with acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Fatal accidents in Formula 1 and other series have prompted extensive discussion about safety improvements, often resulting in rule changes to prevent similar accidents from happening again. After Jules Bianchi died in 2015 from head injuries sustained in a 2014 crash, Formula 1 and its feeder series introduced the “halo,” an additional safety structure around the drivers’ head to prevent head injuries.

Unfortunately, there is no obvious path towards preventing incidents similar to the one that killed Hubert. Open-wheeled race cars like Hubert’s Formula 2 car are designed to protect the driver by dissipating forces when the vehicle hits stationary objects such as tire walls, and serious injuries are now relatively rare. However, in Hubert’s case, his car was the stationary object, and the safety structures in the car’s chassis are not designed to dissipate the forces in that scenario since the chances of it happening are extremely low.

While the crash was partly a result of the fast nature of the Eau Rouge-Raidillon complex and the blind spot created by the uphill section, the geography of the area surrounding Spa-Francorchamps make it nearly impossible to redesign the corner. The circumstances that led to Hubert’s death mean that there isn't a clear way to prevent a similar tragedy in the future, although an investigation is being conducted.

The crash left the motorsport community in shock. The feature race was abandoned and the second Formula 2 race was cancelled. While the main event, Formula 1’s Belgian Grand Prix, still ran the following day, Hubert’s untimely passing was ever present in the minds of the drivers, team members, and fans. Two moments of silence were held before the race, with everyone involved in Formula 1 and its feeder series standing on track in solidarity with Hubert’s mother and brother. Every Formula 1 car sported a sticker reading “Racing for Anthoine,” and on lap 19 of the Grand Prix, every fan stood and applauded for the whole lap to honor Hubert, who had raced wearing number 19. Race winner Charles Leclerc dedicated his victory to his late friend, keeping his celebrations subdued and pointing skywards as he emerged from the cockpit.

Hubert was a talented racer: he earned his spot in Formula 2 by winning the GP3 Series in 2018, and was signed to Renault’s driver academy, giving him a clear route to an eventual seat in Formula 1. He was also one of the most well-liked faces in the Formula 2 paddock, and had remained close friends with many of the drivers who had graduated to Formula 1 before him. His presence on and off-track will be sorely missed. Rest in peace, Anthoine Hubert.