2019 Belgian Grand Prix – what the drivers said

The drivers speak following an emotional weekend at Spa-Francorchamps for the 2019 Belgian Grand Prix

For the first time in Formula 1, the Monegasque national anthem sounded at the end of the race as Charles Leclerc secured his maiden victory.

Lewis Hamilton joined him on the podium, alongside Valtteri Bottas, while Sebastian Vettel claimed the extra point for the fastest lap.

There were muted celebrations on the rostrum though, with the race coming just 24 hours after the death of Renault academy driver Anthoine Hubert in the F2 feature race.

3 Legs 4 Wheels looks at the drivers’ reactions following the events at Spa-Francorchamps:

Charles Leclerc – 1st (Ferrari):

“It is difficult to enjoy a first victory on a weekend like this. I grew up with Anthoine, and we competed in our first karting race together with Pierre (Gasly) and Esteban (Ocon) in 2005. These are memories I will keep forever. Losing him yesterday was a huge shock, not only to me but to everyone in motorsport. In a way, I am satisfied having won today to remember him in the way he should be remembered. He was a champion, and this victory is for him. The race itself was good and nothing would have been possible without the amazing car the team gave me. We made good improvements in terms of race pace and tyre management this weekend. The last few laps weren’t easy. I saw Lewis coming closer and closer in the mirror, so I put my head down and tried to focus on the work I had to do in the car. At the end, I managed to cross the line in first place and I’d like to thank the team for the hard work they have put in to make this possible.”


Lewis Hamilton – 2nd (Mercedes):

“It’s been a very difficult weekend for everyone in motorsport and today I raced with Anthoine in my thoughts. In general, it’s been a
wobbly weekend but to have a solid Qualifying and then a solid race today, I’m really happy. Of course, you always want to win on a race
day, but I gave it absolutely everything I had. Ferrari were a very strong force but for us to be that close at the end means there are plenty of positives to take. I’m happy for Charles, he did a fantastic job all weekend so congratulations to him. We’ve got a lot work to do to try to catch up to Ferrari on the straights in the next four days, but if anyone can do it it’s this team. Hopefully we can have another close race next weekend in Monza.”


Mattia Binotto – Team Principal (Ferrari):

“This is a victory that certainly gives us plenty of energy and desire to do well. After the summer break it was very important for us to return to the track focused – and to show we are competitive after a start to the season in which we lost so many opportunities. Compliments to Charles, who sealed his very first victory in Formula 1, and it was important to do it here not least because he and Anthoine were close friends. This is the best way to remember him. His weekend was outstanding from Friday and he truly deserved this win. Seb also put together a good race and he showed strong pace in the first stint, but we brought forward his pit stop to protect his position. This meant his tyres had degraded a lot towards the end of the race. He helped his team-mate and he showed yet again that he is willing to work for the good of the team. Now we head to Monza, we are raring to go and we want to perform just as well at our home race.”

GP BELGIO F1/2019 – DOMENICA 01/09/2019
credit: @Scuderia Ferrari Press Office


Valtteri Bottas – 3rd (Mercedes):

“It’s been a tough weekend for everyone after yesterday’s sad news. I was trying as hard as I could out there but not many opportunities came my way. The race pace felt OK, but Ferrari were stronger on the straights as we expected. I was maybe lacking a bit at the end of the first stint with tyre drop off but the second stint was strong. However, there was no other opportunity for me to attack before the end of the race, so we decided to save the engine and the gearbox. Spa has normally been a difficult track for me, but we made up a position with better strategy and I actually think this has been my best performance here. Now we look to Monza where we expect Ferrari to be quick again, but we’ll push hard to fight them.”


Sebastian Vettel – 4th (Ferrari):

“It was not by any means an easy race for me. At the start I managed to retake my position from Lewis but then I began to struggle with the tyres and I had to stop earlier than planned. With the medium tyres at first I managed to maintain a good pace, but then it dropped again.
I tried to keep second place but I couldn’t do it and at that point, the best thing to do was to pit once more for tyres and carry on without struggling so much. We have to understand why my car had such high tyre degradation and we will do a full analysis of the situation to understand the reasons why I did not feel comfortable. It was definitely not a great weekend for me, but it was a great weekend for the team and that’s the main thing. So congratulations to all the guys in the team and well done to Charles for his first win!”


Toto Wolff – Team Principal (Mercedes):

“Overall, this was a weekend of damage limitation for us in terms of the championships, so we can be satisfied to come away with a double
podium finish and two strong drives from Lewis and Valtteri. We had a quick race car this afternoon, pulling back lots of time through the second sector as the tyres degraded, but you could see the straight line speed of our competitors – even with the DRS and the tow, we didn’t really have enough of a speed delta to put them under pressure lap after lap. When you finish so close to P1, of course you look back at what you could have done better – perhaps the optimum stop lap for Lewis would have been one earlier, but it’s a lot easier to make that call with hindsight. Of course, the big picture this weekend is a different one – a talented young man lost his life yesterday and that has overshadowed everything. We must continue to remember him and hold Anthoine’s memory high – today was Charles’ well-deserved maiden F1 victory, and they were close friends, so everything happens for a reason.”


Alexander Albon – 5th (Red Bull):

“I’m very happy. P5 is an amazing result and we’ve got off to a great start. I had some good fun out there and I enjoyed this race a lot. I started off the weekend very nervous and if you had told me I’d finish the race fifth I’d be very happy, but I’m a bit more relaxed now. It was actually a difficult race and in the first stint I struggled with grip in the dirty air and couldn’t overtake anyone. But then once we pitted for the soft tyres, the car came alive and I was like – now we can do something! The last lap was really good, I had a good fight with Sergio where we were both on the grass and it made for some good racing.

“There are definitely some areas I need to improve on and over the next few days I’ll get my head down, do some homework and address them for Monza. I will sit down with the Team and understand why I struggled at the start, but I am still finding out the car’s little tricks and adapting to it. I didn’t really feel too much pressure coming into the weekend, I think the media thought I was going to, but I’ve enjoyed my week with the Team. It’s been a good experience and a different way of working. Last night was very tough, us rookies knew Anthoine very well, so it’s been a stressful few hours and this morning felt strange. When you know a person and when they’re at the race track, it’s a very difficult atmosphere, so we dedicate this race to him.”


Sergio Perez – 6th (Racing Point):

“It’s obviously a very sad day for our family, our community. I don’t think any of us have really enjoyed being here today – but all we can do is give this race to Anthoine. It’s no less than he, his family and his friends deserve. It was a good result for the team – especially considering the issues we had on Friday. It was a hard race, from the beginning to the end, but we came away with a good amount of points and some positive momentum to take into the next few races. There was a bit of chaos at the start, which I had to avoid by running wide, which lost me two or three places. From there we were fighting all the way through to make it back. I went into attack mode with lots of overtaking and P5 looked possible – but at the end Albon was very strong and we had no chance to keep him behind. Our strategy was quite aggressive, so we paid the price at the end of the race. It always hurts to lose a position on the final lap, but we did all we could. Overall a positive performance for us. Spa is a place where we generally go well, so it will be interesting to see how we go at the coming races.”


Daniil Kvyat – 7th (Toro Rosso):

“We had a fantastic race today, to come from last on the grid to P7 was a great result. We knew that with the cooler conditions it would be much better for our car, and actually we made a very big step in the race. Our car seems to perform better on Sundays this year, which I prefer – it’s where you need to be the fastest. We had many overtakes, good tyre management, a great strategy, and today we also had the pace to be competitive. We put everything together and I’m really happy with my racing and the final result. It was a lot of fun.”


Christian Horner – Team Principal (Red Bull):

“I’ve been very impressed with Alex’s performance all weekend and he put in a great recovery drive from 17th on the grid to finish fifth in his first race with us. He was pretty cautious during the first half of the race as he felt his way into the Grand Prix, but things started to come alive for him on the softer compound tyre and he put in some great overtakes. Max didn’t have a great start which meant he got boxed in at Turn 1 in the middle of the pack. He made contact with Kimi mid-corner which resulted in a broken front track rod, ending his race. It was a frustrating racing incident but Max has completed over 20 consecutive races in the top five now and it’s just unfortunate that run ended at his home race. It’s been a difficult 24 hours for the whole community and everyone raced with a heavy heart. Congratulations to Charles Leclerc, he drove a great race and it seems quite fitting that a close friend of Anthoine’s won here today.”


Nico Hulkenberg – 8th (Renault):

“It was a difficult race right from the start. I had to take avoiding action at turn one to miss the collisions and we lost some positions there. The midfield was again very close today meaning making back the positions was hard. We pitted near the end for Softs and that paid off. We were certainly a bit lucky on those last laps, but that’s racing. It was good to get some points on the board, especially in the circumstances after yesterday’s shock news. The morning was difficult, but once the helmet goes on, the adrenaline kicks in and you have to work. To take home points was pleasing in the end.”


Pierre Gasly – 9th (Toro Rosso):

“This was the most emotional race of my career, it was important for me to deliver the best performance I could for Anthoine. In the end it was a good result and I’m happy to get two points on my first race back with Toro Rosso. We knew it was going to be a tough race and we really went for it. We had an aggressive strategy pitting early, and we knew we would have to fight a lot on the second part of the race against the other guys on the softer compound. I gave it my best in attacking and defending, we had some good close racing and I’m really happy to score these two points, for the team and for Anthoine. I’ve discovered quite a few more things about the car during the race, it’s quite different to the Red Bull one, and lap after lap I could feel it getting better so I’m sure there will be more to come in the upcoming races.”


Lance Stroll – 10th (Racing Point):

“It has not been an easy weekend for all of us and our thoughts remain with Anthoine’s family at this time. I think we put on a good race in his memory and for us it was a competitive afternoon. Both cars in the top ten means good points for the team. I am quite pleased to score a point from P16 on the grid, but it was a bit frustrating because I spent the whole race stuck in traffic, behind cars on different strategies, so it was tough to get clean air and really push on. In hindsight, I think that’s where we lost a lot of race time compared to other drivers, such as Kvyat and Albon, who managed to get in front of us during the race. We gave it a good go though: I was right behind Gasly towards the end and I almost got him. If it wasn’t for the yellow flag on the last lap, I think I could have got him. But it was a great race: very exciting from start to finish and I enjoyed it.”


Otmar Szafnauer – CEO & Team Principal (Racing Point):

“It’s been a difficult weekend for the motorsport community, but I’m pleased we put on a good show today and paid tribute to Anthoine in the best way possible. I said yesterday that getting both cars home inside the points was achievable and we did that today – even though it came down to the very last lap. Sergio’s strategy worked out well, but it left him exposed on the final lap to Albon [with fresher tyres] and we had to settle for sixth place, which is still a fantastic effort. Lance was on a different strategy with a late second pit stop, which saw him charging through the field to pick up the final point. It’s the result we deserved and reflects the speed we have shown all weekend. The car has looked much more competitive here and it’s another demonstration of the progress we have made over the last few events.”


Lando Norris – 11th* (McLaren):

“First of all, my thoughts today are with Anthoine’s family and friends. My deepest condolences to them. With my race, it wasn’t boring. It was still fun and exciting. We had an extremely good start, the launch was very good and in Turn One we managed to pass six cars in one go and get into fifth. We controlled it from there. I think we have some positives to look at. Everyone in the team did such a good job and losing the engine on the last lap was tough. We have to move on from this and get ready for Monza.”

*Norris broke down on the final lap but was classified 11th, having completed more distance than the lapped cars.


Kevin Magnussen – 12th (Haas):

“The first stint on the C3 tires felt terrible, there was absolutely no grip and we were just falling down and getting overtaken all the time. I actually made the wrong call to stay out a bit longer on that tire, that was so bad because I felt it was hopeless, so we might as well just wait for a safety car or something like that. I felt that was my only chance to come back. Then when we  eventually did pit for the C2 yellow tire, the car just came alive and completely back to normal and felt very good again. It’s so unpredictable and you don’t know what to expect.”


Romain Grosjean – 13th (Haas):

“We had a great start, the car was performing very well at the beginning of the race. I was really happy with the car pulling out a gap. Then we put the medium on and to my surprise the car was even better. So, I was hoping it was going to be a really good afternoon. Then we went behind the Renault of Ricciardo. He was fighting as hard as he could, and we just had no chance to pass him. We obviously had too much drag and not enough top speed. It’s not a choice, or an option we had just to get the tires to work, but it’s so hard. I was happy with my driving style and the car, you’re constantly fighting, but it’s so hard to take having been in P6 to then go to P13. It’s a tough feeling not being able to do anything.”


Max Verstappen – DNF (Red Bull):

“It was of course not a great end to the weekend but it’s not the worst thing that can happen in life as we have seen yesterday, so I cannot really call this frustration. I got a poor start, the reaction was not great and then I got wheel spin when I released the clutch. I tried to stay on the inside into Turn 1 but I think Kimi expected to be fully ahead of me and just followed his line. I don’t think you can blame anyone and I guess he just didn’t see me, once I was next to him and he was turning then we couldn’t back out. We touched, my track rod was broken so I went straight on into the barrier at Eau Rouge and the race was over. These things happen, it’s very unfortunate for the Team and we will of course try and do better next week.”


Cyril Abiteboul – Team Principal (Renault):

“We had a good pace in qualifying, but the planned penalties exposed us to incidents that frequently occur here in the midfield at the first corner. And unfortunately that was the case today. Nico was able to avoid the debris off the start by going very wide but to the expense of several positions, while Daniel was hit from behind and fell back to the rear of the field with a suspected slow puncture. From there it was a race to come back. We asked Daniel to look after his tyres after the change and he did an extremely good job considering the circumstances and the very significant damage to his car, at least half a second per lap. For Nico, he was able to make up some positions but the mediums did not last so well in the traffic and he had to stop again for softs. This weekend has been difficult for a number of reasons. We need to reflect and then turn our thoughts to Monza where we hope our pace can be equally decent but rewarded with more points.”


Daniel Ricciardo – 14th (Renault):

“Our race was pretty much shaped after the lap one, turn one incident. I got hit from behind and had big damage to the floor. We had to pit – I actually thought we might retire the car – but we put the Mediums on and the car was a bit of a handful. We kept going, held our place in the top ten, and I thought at one stage we might pick up some points. I was proud to hold on for that long and I know we couldn’t have done anymore. I’m glad today is over; yesterday’s news has been difficult to take. It was tough to be here and put on a brave face, but I’m glad I gave it my best.”


Andreas Seidl – Team Principal (McLaren):

“Let’s start with the positives. After a difficult Friday and Saturday, we couldn’t have expected the pace we showed today. The performance the team and Lando put together was impressive. After avoiding trouble in Turn One, emerging in P5, we were fully in control of our race. That, of course, is encouraging. It’s now important to study our race and understand where this pace came from today. The negatives are two DNFs. Two technical failures. This, obviously, is very disappointing. We need to wait until we have the cars back in the garage to begin a thorough analysis, together with our colleagues from Renault, to understand in detail what happened. We lost a great opportunity to score good points today – but we have to put this behind us and look forward to Monza. The last word should of course go to Anthoine and his memory. It is never easy to accept such a loss. This has been a difficult 24 hours for the motorsport family and all of us at McLaren send our heartfelt sympathies to Anthoine’s family, friends and colleagues, and our best wishes to Juan-Manuel [Correa, who was injured in the F2 crash] for his recovery.”


George Russell – 15th (Williams):

“It’s been a difficult day for everyone with the devastating news. Anthoine was a really great guy and I hope we did him proud, racing in his honour. I didn’t make a good start, I was forced to the outside and then I saw Raikkonen going through the air with a lot of debris. I committed to the escape road, then when I came back on Verstappen was going slow, so I lost a lot of positions. Our pace was ok, although I don’t know the end gaps to the guys ahead of us. Overall, it was quite a lonely race. This was always going to be the toughest race of the year for us. Next weekend we must reset, fight and see what we can do.”


Kimi Raikkonen – 16th (Alfa Romeo):

“Unfortunately my race was already over in turn one. I had to slow down as Bottas was at the outside and the next thing I know I get hit and I’m on two wheels. Afterwards it was nearly pointless to stay out as there was a lot of damage to the floor but you never know what’s gonna happen so we did the whole distance. Really a shame as we had a strong car today.”


Carlos Sainz – DNF (McLaren):

“Obviously a disappointing grand prix, not being able to race. We definitely need to look into what happened today. It’s obviously not very good news if you cannot even start a race. So nothing to say. A shame also about Lando’s retirement on the last lap that prevented us from getting another 10 points in the championship, which would’ve been a very big step in the right direction. I’m sorry for the whole team. I don’t think we deserve these two DNFs. At least the pace of the car showed today that there was a lot more to grab than single points. We move on. What happened yesterday puts everything into perspective. It was the toughest reminder that motorsport is extremely dangerous and everyone needs to be aware of the inevitable risks it involves. Our whole community is going through a very tough and emotional moment and all my thoughts go out to Anthoine’s whole family and his friends. We will always carry his memory wherever we race. It is the best tribute we can pay to our fellow driver. Rest in peace.”

Carlos Sainz, McLaren MCL34


Frederic Vasseur – Team Principal (Alfa Romeo):

“Racing today was never going to be easy given yesterday’s tragic circumstances. Anthoine was one of my drivers in F3 and the minute of silence we observed for him today was quite an emotional moment. My thoughts go out to his family, while at the same time I hope for a quick recovery for our Sauber Junior driver Juan Manuel. As for the race, it was an afternoon to forget: Kimi’s race was over within a few hundred metres from the start, when he was hit by Max Verstappen in a very optimistic move, and Antonio missed out on some good points with an accident in the last lap.”


Robert Kubica – 17th (Williams):

“We had to start from the pitlane and had to compromise the car slightly due to yesterday. It might have been an advantage to start from the pitlane with the cooler weather, as you have much better tyre temperatures, but because of the safety car we couldn’t really gain anything from that. The pace was not too bad, although I had a bit of degradation with the medium tyres in the early part of the race, then it stabilised, and I managed to resume pace. We put the soft compound on for the last part of the race and I was managing to keep Raikkonen behind, but I was a bit unlucky with Vettel lapping me. He got me into the DRS zone, and with Alfa being nearly 20kph faster than us on the straight line, it was easy for him to overtake me as well.”

Robert Kubica (POL) Williams Racing FW42.
Belgian Grand Prix, Sunday 1st September 2019. Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium.


Antonio Giovinazzi – DNF (Alfa Romeo):

“The car has been really strong today and therefore it’s even more disappointing not to finish the race with an accident in the last lap. Our strategy was great and we would have been in the points and for this I feel sorry for everyone in the team, but I guess that’s racing.”

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