Charles Leclerc says it will be “difficult” to return to Spa-Francorchamps, 12 months after his friend Anthoine Hubert died in an accident during a Formula 1 support race.

The 22-year-old Frenchman was killed in a high-speed crash during the Formula 2 feature race at Spa-Francorchamps in an accident which overshadowed last year’s Belgian Grand Prix.

Ferrari driver Leclerc went on to secure his maiden F1 victory the day after Hubert’s accident and dedicated his first win in the sport to his close friend who he had grown up with.

"The Spa-Francorchamps circuit has a special place in my heart," Leclerc said in a Ferrari preview to this year's race.

"While it is here that I took my first win, it is also where we lost our friend Anthoine last year. It will be difficult to return to this track and he will be in our thoughts all weekend.”

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Hubert’s death affected many of the F1 drivers, including Pierre Gasly, who was particularly close to his fellow countryman, who he had lived with as the pair forged their respective motorsport careers.

Ahead of this weekend’s race in Belgium, the AlphaTauri driver said: ”Spa is my favourite track and racing through all those high-speed corners is a great thrill. I really enjoy driving it and have had great races there in the past.

"However, this year, returning to Belgium will also be a sad moment, because it is just one year ago that Anthoine lost his life after that terrible accident in the F2 race in Spa.

"I had known him since I was seven years old in karting, we were in the same school together organised by the French motorsport federation, from when I was 13 to 19, and we shared an apartment for six years.

"I think everyone in the paddock will take time to think of him.”