Belfast Telegraph

Hubert's death is a wake-up call for F1 drivers: Stewart

Sad loss: Anthoine Hubert, who died in a Formula Two race, is shown on a big screen ahead of the Belgian GP
Sad loss: Anthoine Hubert, who died in a Formula Two race, is shown on a big screen ahead of the Belgian GP

By Philip Duncan

Sir Jackie Stewart believes Formula One drivers are taking too many risks and has warned that another serious accident could be imminent.

Charles Leclerc’s drive to his maiden victory at the Belgian Grand Prix took place against the backdrop of the first driver death during a race weekend since Ayrton Senna perished at Imola in 1994.

Leclerc dedicated his win to Anthoine Hubert, the 22-year-old Frenchman who was killed when Juan-Manuel Correa tore through his car at 160mph in Saturday’s Formula Two race.

Daniel Ricciardo later admitted he contemplated withdrawing from Sunday’s Grand Prix, while British teenager Lando Norris (19) said he was left shaken by the fatal accident.

“You know what? They might have to get used to it,” said Stewart.

“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.

“We have seen wings broken, cars going up in the 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.

“The shock and grief that was very evident in Spa is something that is new to this generation. Suddenly, everybody is aware that, ‘My God, if we do the wrong thing here, there is going to be a disaster’. There hadn’t been a disaster for such a long time.

“It is not impossible for another one to happen. Sometimes they come along in threes. We have seen that with aircraft accidents. It shakes everybody up.”

Stewart, who turned 80 earlier this year, is one of motor racing’s most decorated drivers, with a remarkable strike rate of 27 victories from 99 Grands Prix and three World Championships.

He also survived Formula One’s deadliest era, and it was his campaign which transformed the safety of the sport.

Frenchman Jules Bianchi is the only F1 driver to have been killed this century, ultimately succumbing to the injuries he sustained at the rain-hit 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.

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

Both Stewart and Prost were pallbearers at Senna’s funeral.

“I was with Alain just after the crash,” added Stewart. “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. If you didn’t want to do it, if the kitchen was too hot, then you’d better get out.

“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.”

Motor racing’s world governing body the FIA have opened an investigation into Hubert’s death, which took place on the exit of the fearsome Eau Rouge corner. Stewart believes the sport’s administrators might now have to consider adapting one of the most famous bends on the calendar.

He added: “It is possible that the circuit might be faced with slowing down what is a great corner. But if it is going to save lives, then why not do it?”

Monza, the fastest track in F1, will play host to the Italian Grand Prix this Sunday. Lewis Hamilton holds a 65-point Championship lead with eight races left.

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