Anthoine Hubert’s fellow racers paid tribute to the Frenchman as they returned to Spa-Francorchamps a year after the 22-year-old lost his life at the Belgian track.
Hubert was racing in the Formula Two series, a feeder and support category to Formula One, when he suffered fatal injuries in a high-speed crash on the Saturday of the 2019 Belgian Grand Prix.
His death was the first fatality at a Formula One race weekend since Brazilian triple champion Ayrton Senna and Austrian Roland Ratzenberger were killed at Imola in 1994.
"For me it is just very hard to accept he's not with us anymore," compatriot Pierre Gasly, who drives for Formula One team Alpha Tauri and grew up racing Hubert, told reporters via video conference on Thursday.
"From the age of 13 till I was 18 I spent basically from 7:30 at breakfast in the morning till 10 p.m. in the evening each single day together," he added.
Gasly laid flowers at the scene of Hubert’s accident and will be wearing a special helmet in his honor this weekend.
All Formula Two cars will also carry a logo the series has created in his memory.
"For sure it is difficult and will be difficult tomorrow having that in mind," said Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who also grew up racing with Hubert and took his maiden Formula One win in Belgium last year the day after the Frenchman died.
"But that doesn’t change my target for the weekend which is to do the best I can in the car."
Hubert, a member of Formula One team Renault’s young driver program, suffered his accident at the Spa track’s fast Raidillon corner.
His car rebounded off the barriers before being hit by Ecuadorian-American Juan Manuel Correa.
Correa, who suffered severe leg injuries in the incident that required several surgeries, made an emotional return to Spa on Thursday.
Wheelchair-bound but hoping to return to racing next year, he visited the scene of the accident.
"Being in Spa this week definitely brings a lot of emotions, some positive and some negative," he said in a statement.
"It is going to be a difficult weekend in that sense, but I am here, mainly as a tribute to Anthoine but also to see old friends, revisit the paddock … and to enjoy the overall race weekend."