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Motorsport mourns after F2 driver Anthoine Hubert dies

FILE - This May 24, 2019 file photo shows BWT Arden's Anthoine Hubert. French driver Anthoine Hubert has died in a Formula Two accident at the Belgian Grand Prix following an estimated 160 mph (257 kph) collision on Lap 2 at the high-speed Spa-Francorchamps track, which earlier Saturday Aug. 31, 2019, saw qualifying for Sunday's Formula One race. (David Davies/PA via AP, File)

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (AP) — Motorsport is mourning the death of Formula Two driver Anthoine Hubert, who was killed following a heavy crash at the Belgian Grand Prix on Saturday.

The 22-year-old Frenchman died following an estimated 160 mph (257 kph) collision with U.S. driver Juan-Manuel Correa’s car as they exited a corner on Lap 2 at the high-speed Spa-Francorchamps track, which just hours earlier saw qualifying for Sunday’s Formula One race.

Both Hubert’s and Correa’s cars were severed in two following the crash, with Correa’s car flipped upside down. Hubert’s car sustained a huge impact and span around violently, as did Correa’s, as debris from both cars was sprayed all over the track. Medics rushed to reach them on the 7-kilometer (4.3-mile) track located in the Ardennes forest.

As other drivers swerved around the mangled wreckage of both cars, the race was canceled a few minutes later.

Hubert raced for the British-owned Arden team.

Motorsport’s governing body FIA said Hubert “succumbed to his injuries, and passed away at 18:35” local time.

The racing community quickly expressed its sadness at the accident.

McLaren addressed its “heartfelt condolences to Anthoine’s family and loved ones, his colleagues at the Arden team, and the entire F2 community.”

Five-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton, who earlier had qualified third on the same track after crashing into the tire-barriers during the third and final practice, wrote on Instagram: “This is devastating. God rest your soul Anthoine. My prayers and thoughts are with you and your family today.”

The French Automobile Federation said it was “in shock” after hearing of Hubert’s death.

The Renault F1 team said in a statement: “Anthoine was a member of the Renault Sport Academy and raced in the FIA Formula 2 Championship, the final ladder to F1 … The Frenchman was a huge talent who also brought great energy and positivity to his championship, his teams and the Renault Sport Academy. His smile and sunny personality lit up our formidable group of young drivers, who had formed tight and enduring bonds.”

French driver Esteban Ocon, who has joined the Renault F1 team for next season, tweeted: “Can’t believe it, we had the same age, we started racing together and battled on track for years. All my thoughts goes to his family,” adding “Repose en paix” — or rest in peace — in French.

Many other teams and drivers expressed their sympathies.

Hubert won two F2 races this season and was eighth in the championship standings.

The FIA’s statement also gave details of the other two drivers involved: Correa — a 20-year-old in his rookie season — and Giuliano Alesi, the son of former F1 Ferrari driver Jean Alesi.

Correa, who races for the Sauber Junior team, was “in a stable condition” and being treated at Liege hospital while 19-year-old rookie Alesi was checked and declared fit at the on-site medical center.

FIA says it is investigating the fatal accident, which happened in good weather and dry track conditions.

French F1 driver Jules Bianchi died in July 2015, after a head-on collision with a track-side crane at the rain-soaked Japanese GP at Suzuka in October 2014.

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, who earlier had taken pole position at the Belgian GP for Sunday’s F1 race, was a close friend of Bianchi’s.

The 21-year-old Leclerc, the 2017 F2 champion, posted a photo on Instagram of himself alongside Hubert during their junior racing days.

Deaths have hit other motorsport series in recent years.

British IndyCar driver Justin Wilson died in August 2015, a day after being hit on the helmet by debris from another car at Pocono Raceway. In 2011, British IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon died of a head injury at Las Vegas when his car flipped cockpit-first into the fence and his head struck a pole.