SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium -- Ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix, Pierre Gasly asked his friend Charles Leclerc to go claim his first Formula One win for their friend Anthoine Hubert. Leclerc duly obliged on Sunday afternoon.
The motor racing world was shaken this weekend after promising F2 driver Hubert, 22, was killed in a collision with another driver in a race on Saturday. The Frenchman was good friends with Gasly and Leclerc, and rose through the junior ranks of motor racing with them.
Hubert's death was the first to result from injuries sustained at a grand prix event since Leclerc's godfather, Jules Bianchi, died due to an accident at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix. Gasly said another tragic loss was a lot to cope with.
"I told Charles before the race, 'Please win this race for Anthoine,' as we started racing in the same year -- Charles, Anthoine and myself -- and Anthoine won the French Cup in 2005," Gasly said after Sunday's grand prix.
"We raced for so many years and knew each other. Between Jules, a couple of years ago, and now Anthoine, it's terrible for French motorsport. They were two amazing characters and it's difficult to realise."
The race weekend started with a minute's silence for Hubert, where each of the current drivers lined up at the front of the grid alongside the Frenchman's mother and brother.
Gasly, who was spending his first weekend back at Toro Rosso since being demoted from Red Bull in August, admitted the circumstances of his career were far from the forefront of his mind as he climbed into the car.
"I think it was for sure the most emotional pre-race I ever had, because at 22-years-old, 23-years-old, to live this kind of moments..." he said. "You lose one of your best mates. I've grown up with these guys since I was seven in karting, we've been room-mates, we've lived in the same apartment, in the same room for six years, we've been class mates. I've studied since I was 13 until 19 with him, with the same professor at a private school that the federation did.
"I'm still shocked," Gasly said. "I don't realise how it can go so fast.
"It's terrible. I've already planned to see all our friends we had in common with Anthoine tomorrow as none of us really understand and realise what has happened yesterday."
Christian Horner, team boss of the Red Bull team which Gasly drove for until last month, offered him some words of comfort on Saturday night.
"What happened yesterday was a shock for both our drivers [Albon and Verstappen]," he said. "They've raced against Anthoine at different points, but particularly for Pierre, I think they've grown up together. They raced for many years together, their families know each other extremely well. I think it hit him very hard.
"All I could do was try and offer some support and say: 'Anthoine was doing exactly what he wanted to do and that if he'd had the opportunity to race the Formula One car that you're in tomorrow, he would have grabbed that opportunity with both hands.' It brings home to everybody the risks -- not just in Formula One, but all the categories of motorsport or single-seater racing."
Many drivers found the situation slightly overwhelming. Hubert was a part of Renault's driver development programme and was highly rated within the team. Daniel Ricciardo, the face of Renault's F1 team after his big-money move from Red Bull for this season, admitted it had been difficult to process the events of Saturday evening.
When asked if there was ever a moment when the emotion became too much and forced him to question whether he wanted to race, Ricciardo said: "Last night, absolutely. You question, 'Is it really worth it?'
"At the end of the day, it is a simple question, but a pretty honest one as well. It is our job and profession and our life, but also it is still just racing cars around in circles. So, it gets to a point where you actually question it when you are reminded of these things -- is it worth it?
"I certainly questioned it last night, but having a sleep and then seeing some of his family here today, that is what gave me more strength than anything else," Ricciardo continued. "How they could be here after... Taking my hat off to them doesn't do it justice. I could not imagine being in their position, and I felt that they were a lot stronger than any of us today."
Leclerc dedicated his victory to Hubert, admitting the circumstances of the weekend made his maiden F1 win a bittersweet feeling.