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Gasly still struggling to accept Anthoine Hubert's death one year on

Pierre Gasly pays tribute to Anthoine Hubert at the top of the Raidillon corner. Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

One year on from the death of Anthoine Hubert at Spa-Francorchamps, Formula One drivers Pierre Gasly and Charles Leclerc have paid tribute to their friend ahead of this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix.

On Thursday, Gasly was among members of the F1 paddock who laid flowers at the corner where Hubert suffered fatal injuries in the Formula Two race last year.

Both Gasly and Leclerc were close friends of Hubert's and raced against him in junior categories. Gasly, who drives for Alpha Tauri in F1, said it was not easy returning to the scene of Hubert's accident this year.

"As soon as I put one foot in the paddock, I just have these images that come back in my mind, and things I don't want to accept or I struggle to accept," Gasly said. "Even during the track walk, I was thinking ... I just struggle to realise it really happened and unfortunately that's just the truth, the reality.

"It hasn't been easy."

Gasly first raced against Hubert when he was 9, and the two drivers were roommates during their junior career.

"He was one of the guys I spent most of my time with during my childhood, and we were rivals but, at the same time, I actually know that I would have never achieved what I did without growing with him," Gasly said. "We were pushing each other so much, whether it was on track or off the track, that it just made me a better athlete, made me a better driver, and [this competition] always pushed myself to deliver more, find more within myself.

"It's been part of my self-development as a person and as a driver. And I can only be grateful for that. He is someone we talk about really often with my friends, because we had a lot of common friends, and, as I say, like during the track walk, I just have these images and footage in mind that I wish would have never happened. Unfortunately, that's just the danger of our sport and yeah, I mean, you know... it's just hard to accept.

"Doing this special helmet and dropping these flowers and thinking I was with him. Again, after [the race in] Budapest last year, I had Sunday dinner with him, and we shared a nice moment with his girlfriend and another friend, on Sunday night after Budapest, and this was the last time I saw him.

"He was one of the first ones to send me a text when Red Bull decided to put me back in Toro Rosso. For me it is just very hard to accept he's not with us anymore."

Leclerc, who races for Ferrari, won the Formula One race the day after Hubert's death and dedicated the victory to his friend.

"Last year was very difficult on the Saturday night, obviously we have all learned about Anthoine passing away, and on the Sunday I remember speaking with Pierre," he said. "We were all good friends, with also Esteban [Ocon], and Anthoine, we all grew up together.

"Pierre told me you need to win for Anthoine Sunday, and I obviously wanted to do that too. I managed to do it, which was very special, and also very difficult, as it is the first time I experienced driving around the same track where you lose a close one, or a driver, in the same track, so it was very difficult.

"Coming back here doesn't change that. For sure it is difficult, and will be difficult tomorrow, having that in mind, but that doesn't change my target for the weekend, which is to do the best I can in the car."