Pierre Gasly on Thursday expressed the feelings harboured by many Formula One paddock regulars when he said he felt conflicted about taking part in this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.
The 27-year-old Alpine driver said he had felt the worst emotions of his life at the majestic, dangerous and high-speed Spa-Francorchamps circuit set in the forests of the Belgian Ardennes.
Gasly was referring to the day he learned of the death of his close friend, compatriot and colleague Anthoine Hubert, who was killed in a crash in heavy rain while taking part in a Formula Two race at Spa in 2019.
“I’m someone that is emotional,” said the Frenchman, speaking to reporters.
“I think I link places with emotions and I’ve had the worst emotions of my life here, but at the same time, it’s one of my favourite tracks. So it’s very contradictory. I love this track and I love racing at this track, but at the same time I’ll never forget what I felt going down these stairs (in the paddock) when my parents told me the news.
“Obviously, it’s tough, but I accept the sport that we do and it’s things you have got to live with. It’s also life -- as sad as it can be.”
As a result, he has taken a leading role this weekend in organising an event in Hubert’s memory -– a run around the circuit that was due to take place on Thursday evening.
Gasly invited all staff from teams involved in the events of the Grand Prix weekend and paddock regulars to take part in the ‘Run for Anthoine’, an event made more poignant by the recent death of Dutch racer Dilano van‘t Hoff in a regional championship race earlier this month.
Gasly said he had been planning the run for some months and found that it helped him resolve his feelings about his return to the circuit.
“It may be a small thing to some people,” he said.
“But, to me, it is a lot bigger and it is a lot more meaningful. Everyone knows how close I was to Anthoine and how close he was to our team.
“This all started with a conversation early in the season long before the tragic incident which happened a couple of weeks ago, but I just think it’s great that we all, as a community, can come together when these things happen.
“It is the same for everyone who is part of F1, or F2 or F3. It is the whole racing family.”
The sweeping and beautiful circuit has long been a favourite for drivers and fans, who camp under the trees and generate a unique atmosphere through the weekend.
However, it has a capricious microclimate that means there can be rain and sun simultaneously at different parts of the track. It is the longest circuit in current use in F1 and can often have heavy rain which produces thrilling racing.
There is also, though, great danger as drivers struggle to see anything through plumes of spray, notably in high speed corners including the famous Eau Rouge.
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