Belgian GP: Anthoine Hubert’s death in Belgium reminds us that these drivers are gladiators. Let’s show them some respect

Anthoine Hubert’s death at the age of this weekend in that ill-fated F2 Belgian Feature race shocked the motorsport world.

Not since 2014 has a Formula One race weekend seen an accident that would claim a driver’s life when Jules Bianchi hit that tractor at Suzuka in awful conditions.

Not since Ayrton Senna in 1994 has a Formula One driver died at the circuit.

This weekend, a paddock lost a competitor. Drivers lost a friend. And a family are contemplating their son’s death.

The racing public and the wider world forget just what risks these men and women take for their thrill, and our entertainment.

Conveniently, we forget about the warning on the back of every single ticket to a motorsport event anywhere in the world about motorsport being dangerous.

“Well yeah it is, but there’s so many safety measures now, they’ll all be fine. There’s almost no risk.” That phrase is flippantly thrown out everywhere you go.

Wrong.

The sheer fact of the matter is, no matter how many measures you take, driver cars at speeds of well over 100 miles an hour will always be inherently dangerous.

Experts and the powers that be are always, and will always look to learn lessons from relatively minor accidents, to shunts such as Robert Wickens’ at Pocono last year in Indycars, right through to Billy Monger’s freak accident at Donington Park in British F4 in 2017 and Bianchi’s accident in Japan.

Charles Leclerc, a man who has now lost two close friends to racing-related accidents following Hubert’s passing, showed why Halo despite its aesthetic challenges is a necessity at last year’s Belgian Grand Prix.

A year on, Pierre Gasly told Leclerc to win a race for their fallen friend.

Lewis Hamilton, one of hundreds of racing figures to pay tribute to Hubert following Saturday’s tragic events, also outlined those foolhardy attitudes from many not sitting in the cockpit.

Hamilton also crashed in Free Practice on Saturday, to raucous cheers from the grandstand above.

Indeed, for a far from small minority, viewership of Formula One has no longer become about supporting their favourites, but about hoping their rival, the enemy, hits mechanical failures, or spins, or crashes.

There is among some a hope that Vettel/Hamilton etc do not complete the 190-odd miles that entails a Grand Prix distance.

It could be naivety stemming from the fact the drivers walk away from the heaviest of shunts nine times out of ten. It could be tribalism, as there is for some, nothing more important than the enemy suffering at the track in one shape or another. It’s likely a mixture of both.

It’s unlikely that much change of any form will come out of Hubert’s accident. It happened at a part of the circuit that is the fastest, the scenery around it is a forest and so the tyre wall cannot be moved further back to allow larger run-off area – indeed the gravel removed long ago would probably have helped matters.

The layout through Eau Rouge and Radillon will not change, and no changes to the cars are likely to have made much of a difference to this outcome. The powers that be will simply include this is another incident to note and examine.

While they are no longer sitting on the mobile bombs that those in the 1970s were driving, what Hubert’s death should highlight is that the driver across any forms of motorsport that risk their lives for the entertainment of the public are still modern-day heroes.

To be able to compartmentalise an event like this and go out to do it all over again not even on day after a horrifically sad event such as this puts them above mere mortals like you or I.

It is therefore time for certain sections of the viewing public to realise this, to remember and understand exactly what is unfolding before their eyes or on their screens, and show more respect to those gladiators.

Because that is what they are.

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