Pierre Gasly’s third place in the sprint at the Belgian Grand Prix came with added poignancy given how he lost his close friend Anthoine Hubert at Spa-Francorchamps four years ago.
Hubert was a member of the Renault young driver academy when he was killed in a Formula 2 crash at Spa, and Gasly now races for the team that had been trying to bring his fellow Frenchman through into Formula 1. After a strong drive in wet conditions to third behind Max Verstappen and Oscar Piastri in the sprint, Gasly says Hubert was on his mind as he secured the result.
“I must say, it feels amazing,” Gasly said. “I’m extremely happy to finish in the top three, especially here in Spa, which feels some kind of home race for us without the French Grand Prix. It was very, very difficult conditions but no, I’m extremely happy.
“We pitted at the right time and managed to hold off Lewis (Hamilton) until the end, so it does feel very special to do it here as well in Spa, and obviously I have a thought for Anthoine. I’m just extremely pleased for the whole team because it hasn’t been the smoothest start to the year and [we] managed to put things together here today.
“I think, personally, obviously to do this in Spa, it’s been a tough season, really unlucky so far, and to kind of have these turning points here in Spa with…the history and the incidents that happened in the past year for me… It’s definitely meaningful. So really, really happy to get it here.”
Gasly’s strong finish comes one day after Alpine announced the departures of Otmar Szafnauer and Alan Permane, with Pat Fry also leaving for Williams and Laurent Rossi recently replaced as CEO, as the team goes through a period of significant upheaval.
“It’s been quite a busy last few weeks for the team,” the Frenchman said. “It’s kind of tricky for me to really comment on anything. I obviously just joined at the start of the year and it’s quite a big step when you come inside a new team and need to work with new people. And I must say, from Laurent to Otmar to Alan — even Pat that I could see at the factory — they work in the best way and the best way possible.
“I think it was quite unfortunate that this season, at the minute, [hasn’t worked] out as well as we expected it, and we’re not making the progress that we would like. [But]…with all these changes happening, it’s quite a lot at the minute. Yeah, as I said, at the moment I can only thank all these guys: Laurent, Otmar, Alan and Pat for what they’ve done in the first six months, and I just wish (them) the best for the future.”