Anthoine Hubert has died after succumbing to injuries sustained during the Feature Race at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. The BWT Arden rookie was 22 years old.
The Frenchman, born 22 September 1996 in Lyon, was a well-loved member of the paddock, staking his place in the FIA Formula 2 Championship this year on the back of his previous two years in the sister GP3 Series, culminating in a thrilling title win last year at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi with ART Grand Prix.
Hubert grew up in a motorsport loving family, with his father François competing in rallies in France before Anthoine took the inevitable step into karting, initially in the French Cadet championship before moving up to the CIK-FIA U18 world championships, finishing 3rd in 2011 and 2012, the latter year just behind Henry Easthope and close friend and rival Charles Leclerc.
The following season a step up into cars was an instant success, with Hubert easily winning the French Formula 4 Championship, claiming 11 wins from 21 races to dispatch countryman Jules Gounon on the way to the title. The proud Frenchman, a member of the FFSA Academy, looked set for a glorious career as he turned his attention to Formula Renault in 2014.
The season was to be a difficult one, although a follow on year in the category saw Hubert pick up 6 wins in 2015. A move to the FIA Formula 3 European Championship with Van Amersfoort was promising, although a difficult season saw the Frenchman claim a single win and 2 more podiums in a championship dominated by Lance Stroll, Maximilian Günther and George Russell.
With budgets difficult to find, 2017 needed to show an upward trajectory, and a seat at the GP3 Series reigning champions ART Grand Prix promised to give Hubert the boost he needed. Sharing a team with George Russell, Jack Aitken and Nirei Fukuzumi could have been the downfall of many drivers, but the Frenchman set to the task with his usual intelligence and determination, showing the team and his rivals that he was going to push as hard as he could.
Hubert claimed 3 podiums to finish 4th behind his teammates, and if it was clear that bad luck and the lack of a win frustrated him, it was equally clear that the consistency he showed across a difficult season would hold him in good stead in a return to the series.
2018 saw the Frenchman return to work with his countrymen at ART, and a new affiliation with the Renault F1 which promised the potential of a full-time membership of their junior programme was all the incentive he needed: Hubert claimed 2 glorious victories, at home at the Circuit Paul Ricard and at the Silverstone Circuit, along with 9 more podiums to bring home the GP3 Series title, the last man to win the championship ahead of a merger with the FIA Formula 3 Championship for 2019.
The Renault junior deal helped the Frenchman step up to the FIA Formula 2 championship, signing with BWT Arden ahead of pre-season testing. Hubert as always worked diligently with his new team and engineers to learn the car, and to let them know what he needed for the new season.
His talent was clear from the outset: in Race 1 in Bahrain the Frenchman lost his radio link to the team, but nonetheless put in a superb drive in blazing conditions to grab P4 on his debut, stunning his team and their rivals and laying down a marker for what was to come.
Hubert’s ability to absorb information and apply it in the limited track time before the races helped the Frenchman bring home 2 wins, in Monaco and once more at home in Paul Ricard. Up until now, he is the sole rookie to have achieved such an accomplishment. His consistency was on display again with 9 points finishes across 16 races this season.
If it was this consistency and fierce intelligence, allied to strong speed, which was the benchmark of Hubert in the car, it was his sense of humour, loyalty and easy going nature out of it which drew everyone in the paddock to him, and what makes his loss so difficult to comprehend for his friends and rivals alike.
Bruno Michel, the FIA Formula 2 CEO, noted “Everyone in the Formula 2 family is heartbroken at the loss of Anthoine. He was a joy to work with for these 3 years, and I will miss his constant smile and his sharp intelligence that made every encounter with him enjoyable, and our hearts are with his family and the BWT Arden team.”
Teams and drivers from across the world have also paid tribute to the French racer, showing the depth of emotion felt across the motorsport world at the loss of this talented and extremely likeable young man. Today’s Sprint Race has been cancelled out of respect for Hubert, who is survived by his father François, his mother Nathalie, and his brother Victhor.