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SPY ON SPA

Hello everyone, Spy here, reporting from Belgium. Reasons for humour are currently thin on the ground. The death of Anthoine Hubert, and a serious injury to Juan Manuel Correa in Saturday’s F2 feature race made this a very sombre place to come to work on Sunday morning.

Motor racing paddocks are a good place for a funny story or two, full of people who, for the most part, enjoy their jobs and wouldn’t want to work anywhere else. Equally, they’re collectively aware this sport comes with consequences. It says so right there on the back of everyone’s pass: ‘motorsport is dangerous’. It’s possible to get lulled into believing it isn’t so, because everyone works very hard to make it not so, but an awful, tragic reminder – whether that’s in a pit lane, at a marshal post or out on track – is, sadly, rarely far away.

Christian Horner summed up the feeling across the paddock in his statement on Saturday evening.

“The tragic death of Formula 2 driver Anthoine Hubert at Spa today is a reminder of just how cruel motorsport, the sport we love, can be sometimes. In his rookie season, Anthoine was demonstrating to be a star of the future having already won races in Monaco and France this year. On behalf of Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, our thoughts are with Anthoine’s family, Renault and the BWT Arden team, which is close to my heart. Our thoughts are also with Juan Manuel and his family at this time.”

It feels like there should be something more that you can do or say – but there isn’t. The joy and levity is gone, the garage is quiet, the music silenced, and everyone concentrates very hard on the job in hand. There’s a vast crowd at Spa expecting to see a grand prix, so you get on with delivering one.

Max’s race on Sunday didn’t really get going, ushered off on the first lap. It ends a sequence of 21 consecutive top five finishes but in doing so and highlighting that statistic it perhaps underlines how far Max has come in a few years. History would suggest he’s not at the absolute peak of his powers yet but he’s already turned into a phenomenally reliable and mature driver.

Alex won’t look back on his debut totally satisfied, but in the fullness of time he might come to appreciate what a very, very good debut it was: P5 from the ninth row of the grid, in an RB15 he hadn’t driven until Friday at a circuit where he hadn’t previously driven an F1 car. That’s very impressive. Nobody in the garage is going to gush (except, perhaps, his race engineer) but the celebration on the pit wall as Alex crossed the line and the cheers in the garage as he pulled off some impressive overtakes tell their own story. The Team goes in two directions now: either a quick trip back to Milton Keynes, or a dash through Germany and over the Alps to Monza. There are good circuits for the RB15 ahead. Monza, perhaps, isn’t one of them – but we’ve surprised ourselves before this year.