Anthoine Hubert was a racer on the rise. After overcoming numerous challenges through his career, he was standing out as one of Formula 2’s top rookies through the 2019 season before his death as a result of injuries sustained in an accident on Saturday at Spa-Francorchamps on Lap 2 of the Feature Race. He was 22 years old.

The son of a rally driver, Hubert was always destined for a career in motorsport. He first sampled a go-kart at the age of 3 after receiving one for Christmas, and knew by the time he was 5 that he wanted to become a racing driver when he grew up. Weekends would be spent driving around makeshift tracks in car parks outlined by cones, or trying to persuade circuits that deemed Hubert too young to let him have a go.

By the time he was 8, Hubert was racing competitively. He rose through the karting ranks before making the step up to single-seater racing in 2013, entering the French Formula 4 championship where he dominated from start to finish, taking 11 wins en route to a title success claimed by over 100 points. On a national level, he had made a big splash.

A move into Formula Renault 2.0 followed for 2014 where he joined a competitive grid featuring drivers such as Nyck de Vries, Alexander Albon and Jack Aitken. He managed to finish the year as the third-highest rookie in the standings, and took fifth overall in the following season with two wins and five further podium finishes.

The battle for Hubert was always budget. Lacking the spending muscle of many of his contemporaries, his steps up the ladder tended to be gradual – but he always impressed. His first year in European Formula 3 saw him finish eighth overall with one win, coming at the Norisring ahead of that year’s champion, Lance Stroll. He also made his debut at Macau that year – a race he cited as being the one he most wanted to win in motorsport. “I really loved the circuit,” he said in a 2018 interview. “I would love to go back and try to win this race.”

But a move to GP3 followed for 2017, where he again hit the ground running. He finished the year fourth in the standings as ART Grand Prix teammate George Russell claimed the title. Changes at the team meant he would enter 2018 as its leader, albeit with competitive company in Callum Ilott, Nikita Mazepin and Jake Hughes alongside him.

Hubert’s experience soon began to shine through. A maiden victory in the category came on home soil at Paul Ricard before a win at Silverstone thrust him into the lead of the championship. Hubert’s form had also piqued the interest of Renault, who made him an affiliate member of its junior programme in May of 2018.

Simply being on the GP3 grid was an achievement enough in Hubert’s eyes. “Without the bigger budget, I’m already quite happy that I’ve reached GP3, and that I’m able to fight for a championship against people that have a lot more money,” he said.

“I think that’s a big achievement, to have always been able to find a way to get the budget and to go to the next category.”

And that’s exactly what he managed to do for 2019. Six podium finishes in the space of seven races – an impressive achievement considering GP3’s reverse grid system – put him on the cusp of the 2018 GP3 title success, which was wrapped up in Abu Dhabi through a third-place finish.

With most of the top seats on the F2 grid quickly getting swept up for 2019, Hubert landed a drive with BWT Arden – but, once again, wasted little time in taking the fight to those seemingly much further up the grid. He finished fourth on debut in Bahrain before claiming his first victory in Monaco after a tense Sprint Race, edging out ex-Formula Renault 2.0 rival Louis Deletraz by just 0.059 seconds at the line.

An emotional win for Hubert followed at his home race in France as he won the Paul Ricard Sprint Race in front of a vocal crowd waving Tricolore flags as he took the finish line. Now a fully-fledged Renault F1 junior, Hubert was making all the right noises for the future, firmly sitting on the radar for F2’s front-running teams looking to 2020.

Outside of F1, Hubert was a big sports fan, supporting his hometown football team, Olympique Lyonnais, as well as watching rugby and, naturally, motorsport. He enjoyed reading books and watching films, his favourite being Gladiator. He frustrated himself by how superstitious he was. “I’m getting tired of it!” he said in the same 2018 interview, laughing. “I’m so superstitious, I’m not even doing it on purpose. It’s a waste of energy.”

Using three words to describe himself, Hubert chose ‘calm’, ‘shy’, and ‘passionate’ – something reflected in his often-understated motorsport career that held such potential prior to Saturday’s tragic accident at Spa, less than one month shy of his 23rd birthday.

 

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