Aitken shares heartwarming stories of Hubert as Ricciardo in awe of his family
The Korean-Brit racer melts hearts with his stories.
Jack Aitken shared heartwarming stories for Anthoine Hubert on his death anniversary as Daniel Ricciardo was in awe of his family coming to F1 Belgian GP.
A fellow Renault academy member and former teammate, Aitken took upon himself to share stories about Hubert in whole of the F1 Belgian GP weekend as the motorsport community remembered the Frenchman, one year on his death anniversary.
It was August 31 that Hubert lost his life after crashing hard in feature F2 race at Spa-Francorchamps, which left Juan Manuel Correa injured. The Ecuadorian-American was invited last weekend, where everyone paid their tributes as a mark of respect.
Now Williams junior, Aitken, took upon himself to share stories each day of Hubert as he went through some of the closest memories he had with the Frenchman in the years gone by. Several other F2 racers commented on his timeline as many others remembered him.
"Back in 2015, I was racing Formula Renault. We’d been very competitive all through pre-season testing, and before my season proper started we entered a regional race in Imola. We had two days of racing, with a quali and a race on each day. Saturday rolled along and on pole was a guy called Hubert. I remember thinking to myself, we’ve been breaking lap records and posting fastest times all winter, and this guy turns up and has out-qualified me!! Bonjour Anthoine. The whole weekend we were very close at the front of the field, he won the the first race, and then I returned the favour on Sunday. But it wasn’t straightforward. I’d lead away from the start, and established a small gap. Perfect. But in the closing laps, I made a mistake at Tamburello (T1), and he got a run on me. He tried it around the outside into the next corner, and I squeezed him into the dirt and marbles, and watched him sail through the gravel trap. He rejoined and managed to finish behind me. Job done! Well not quite. We were both called to the stewards, and he was already waiting in the corridor when I arrived. We exchanged pleasantries, and I thought he was being very reasonable really. He admitted his move may have been a touch ambitious and we laughed about it. We then moved into the stewards room and they asked what had happened. I gave my account, saying I’d just held my line, and it seemed a fairly innocent racing incident. The steward turned to Anthoine and asked if he agreed. Anthoine (with a perfect poker face) then proceeded to say he felt he had been more than alongside me going into the corner, and that I had squeezed him way too much, that he should have had the inside line for the next corner... Meanwhile I’m thinking “...you bastard” I didn’t get the penalty, but it was the first time I saw his competitive edge, something that’s different to just driving fast. One of the traits that made him a proper racer for many, myself included. I guess because I would’ve done the same I didn’t mind *too* much... But just in case I’d forgotten, he did exactly the same in Red Bull Ring last year after we had a coming together. I did get a penalty that time. Cheers mate."
"Last summer Renault took the Academy for a training camp, cycling across the Pyrenees, coast to coast. It was the penultimate day, and on top of us being tired, it was shocking weather. Constant rain in the morning, and cold as well. We battled our way up the first long climb of the day, racing to the top because we couldn’t help it, before grabbing some warmth in a café at the top as we waited for the others to arrive. A quick caffeine top-up and we descended the mountain, the high speeds chilling our soaked bodies, and the lack of pedalling compounding things. Just pulling the brake levers was becoming a (scary) exercise. We got to the bottom and worked our way through the last stretch to the lunch stop, silence rather than the usual chatter in the group, apart from the occasional “How far to go??” I can only describe it as the feeling of being beaten down, your body is way out of its comfort zone, tired from the effort, cold past the point of shivering. It was brutal, particularly for the less experienced of our group. We finally made it, and when we got there the crew from @coldupeuch said they were pulling the plug. We’d drive to the next hotel. We all had a race next week we couldn’t afford to miss for illness or a crash. But as we waited for food, little patches of blue appeared in the mostly black sky. Anthoine Hubert looked outside then at us, and said that actually he wanted to finish the day, paired with a typically nonchalant shrug. I said he was mental and continued wondering where our hot bowls of pasta were. Being ill for my next race didn’t tickle my fancy. But then Victor said he wanted to go too. My competitive side started nagging me. I couldn’t let them get away with this. So a group of us ventured out again. Several hours later, after a particularly nasty climb and 160kms, we finished the day. And he was bloody right. To come all the way out here and drive that 80km stretch, to not do the *whole* route to save ourselves an afternoon of suffering, would’ve been a crime really. But it took a lot to realise that shivering in sodden lycra after a morning of torture by bike. Merci Anthoine, for helping us live, then and now."
"In 2017 Anthoine and I were teammates at ART GP in GP3. There were 4 of us, myself, Anthoine, George and Nirei. ART pretty much dominated that year, with us taking the top 4 spots in the championship, but I think it’s fair to say we got on pretty well despite spending a fair bit of time racing each other. We’d even managed to have a 3-wide moment at Monza, for the win, without crashing! For Silverstone that year we were staying in Northampton, and for one reason or another I ended up sharing a hire car with Anthoine for a few of the days. On the Thursday, we were doing our usual prep, and in a spare moment I was walking down the paddock (we’re based in the ‘old’ pits by Copse) and saw some of the unused garages were lit up, and some old cars were in there. Old Williams F1 cars to be exact. No idea why the garage had been left open and unattended, but I didn’t need another invitation, so I walked in and started having a closer look. There were cars from the Rothmans era, BMW Williams, even one from the proper turbo and ground-effect times decked out in green and white. I had to leave eventually, but later that day when we were all done, Anthoine and I were walking to the car and I motioned for him to come over to the garage door. It was closed but I was really hoping... yep! The door was still unlocked. We went in and his reaction was the same as mine had been; woah. We admired the retro liveries, and joked about how flimsy the protection was on even the most recent of these, compared to our GP3 cars. I don’t remember what else we talked about, probably what it would be like to drive one... But it was just two guys in a dream garage, free to look as close as they want, as much as they want. It was as if we were kids again, awestruck by these rocket ships, even though not 1km away was a Formula 1 paddock and a team we had access to fairly regularly. I find that pretty comforting actually, it means we haven’t lost our passion. We eventually turned off the lights, closed the door and left. We drove back to the hotel and had a candlelit dinner for two to finish off the day, ready to hit the track tomorrow. Living the dream wasn’t far wrong."
"The story I wished I remembered more of. One year ago, around this time, we were stood next to each other for the usual F2 drivers parade on the truck. Waving to fans and spending the 10-15 mins just chilling really. Some drivers chat a lot, others not so much. We exchanged a few jokes about the days upcoming race, along with a couple of others. I think we might have talked about the craziness of the Dutch fans as we passed Pouhon. Marino (my teammate) and I joked all the orange fans were for Campos. But other than that I don’t remember us saying much. I know my mind was on the race, having qualified well. Anthoine may have been thinking ahead a few hours as well. And that was it. We left the truck and I never saw him again. I hope in reading these stories you get a bit more of a sense of the kind of guy Anthoine was. I see a lot of tributes and posts, and it doesn’t seem right that those people know hardly anything of Anthoine beyond his picture, and his tragic story. I’m not trying to paint him as perfect, because nobody is, but he was a damn good guy, and one who pushed himself (and therefore those lucky enough to be around him) higher and further. A proper competitor, whatever the arena. Racing, cycling, life, you name it. Thinking of him, and all those who loved him. Toujours."
Meanwhile, before the F1 grid got together on Sunday for their homage for Hubert with a minute's silence, Renault's Ricciardo was left in awe of his family to be back to the venue where they lost their son and to not be angry with it.
"It's certainly, I mean time, I think we've probably touched on it as well, when we were probably referring to Jules' accident," said Ricciardo. "Time does heal. Certainly. So it is, I will say it is a little easier 12 months later, but it's still difficult. And we're all on the grid before the the F2 race just now about an hour ago, and it's still very present, I guess is probably the best word.
"And yeah, it's really coming back, like coming back here it's not it's not like you don't you don't feel that affect as much say two weeks ago when we're racing around Barcelona, but coming back to the place of the accident there, there's something there. So, it's, yeah, it's still fresh in a way. But it is a bit easier to kind of keep to the back of your mind on track after a year.
"But yeah, to see, some of his family still here this weekend, I still, I don't know all this like, I would, I would imagine there'll be so much kind of animosity at this venue, fr his family and and for them to even want to be in the circuit surroundings. I, I don't know. I just can't imagine that's easy. So for them to show up again, it's it's like...I just take my hat off like the strength and I would say peace they have with it is nothing short of phenomenal."
[Image courtesy: F1] [Note: The story was written on FormulaRapida.net]