Ricciardo in tears at emotional GP
Daniel Ricciardo has revealed the difficulty in fronting up for the Belgian GP less than 24 hours after the death of F2 driver Anthoine Hubert.
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc registered the maiden win of his Formula One career after romping to victory in Spa, but the focus remained on Hubert's tragic passing after the race.
"I'm glad today is over. I'm glad the race is over," said Ricciardo, who finished 14th.
"I know, weirdly enough, the best way we can kind of show our respect was to race today, but I don't think any of us actually wanted to be here or wanted to race - at least, I'm speaking for myself, but I'm sure I'm not the only one.
"It was tough, it was certainly tough to be here and try and put on a brave face for everyone. I know a lot of people in the paddock are hurting after yesterday.
"I think everyone's relieved it's done, and we can move on from here, and hopefully it's the last time this stuff happens."
Ricciardo told Autosport he considered pulling out of the race. "You question, 'is it really worth it?', for sure. Because at the end of the day, it's a simple question, but it's a pretty honest one as well," he said.
"Yeah, it's our job and it's our profession and it's our life, but also it's still just racing cars around in circles."
A moment of silence was observed before the race in the French driver's memory. His mother, Nathalie, held her son's pink and white crash helmet. Hubert's brother, Victhor, stood alongside her as the Formula One and grieving Formula Two drivers formed an arc, bowing their heads in honour of their fallen colleague.
Ricciardo, the usually jovial Australian, kept his eyes closed throughout the silence and ensuing national anthem. He then appeared to wipe away tears, summing up the sombre mood before the start of Sunday's race.
"To be honest, seeing some of his family here today, that's what gave me more strength than anything else," he said.
"Taking my hat off to them doesn't do it justice. I don't know what to say. I could not imagine being in their position, I felt they were a lot stronger than any of us today."
Leclerc delivered a dominant display to take the chequered flag in his friend's honour. "This one is for Anthoine," said an emotional Leclerc on the radio. "It feels good but it is difficult to enjoy a weekend like this."
He added: "On one hand I have realised a dream, but on the other hand it has been a difficult weekend. I have lost a friend, so I would like to dedicate my win to him. We have grown up together. It is a shame what happened yesterday, so I cannot enjoy my first victory."
Lewis Hamilton finished second after fighting his way past Sebastian Vettel with 12 laps remaining.
Hamilton's Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas also managed to see off Vettel after the Ferrari driver was forced to make an additional stop for tyres.
Hamilton extended his lead over Bottas in the championship to 65 points. Leclerc posted a childhood picture with his arm around Hubert upon news of his death following a horrifying 160mph crash in Saturday's Formula Two race. He accompanied the picture with the words: "I can't believe it."
Leclerc, who is 22 next month, the same age as Hubert, was visibly moved by the tragedy. Prior to the race, he hugged Hubert's mother, Nathalie. All 20 of the drivers' cars were adorned with "Racing for Anthoine" stickers.
Leclerc made the perfect start, racing away to the slow, right-handed La Source turn, to retain the lead.
Hamilton, starting from third, got the jump on Vettel before Max Verstappen bumped wheels with Kimi Raikkonen.
The force of the impact sent Raikkonen temporarily on to two wheels. Verstappen sustained damage to his car and slammed into the barriers at the top of Eau Rouge, the corner which claimed Hubert's life.
My race unfortunately ended in the first corner already. It is what it is. It was a weekend with a lot of mixed feelings. A big thanks for all the fans and the amazing support #OrangeArmy 🦁 #KeepPushing #BelgianGP 🇧🇪 pic.twitter.com/sHk3FFhJWJ— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) September 1, 2019
Verstappen walked away unscathed from the high-speed shunt, but the safety car was quickly deployed.
Following the safety car period, Leclerc retained his lead, with Hamilton hot on Vettel's heels. The German stopped on lap 16, but it was not until lap 21 that Leclerc dived in for a change of rubber. Hamilton pitted on the next lap.
The early stop had helped Vettel take the lead, but his tyres would not last the course. On lap 32 Hamilton fought his way past with Vettel struggling on ageing rubber.
Leclerc was six seconds up the road on Hamilton, and the world champion kept Leclerc honest to the flag, crossing the line just one second behind the Ferrari driver.
Norris looked set to claim a career-best fifth in his McLaren, but stopped with an apparent mechanical failure as he began his final lap.
Australia's Ricciardo finished down in 14th place. "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," Ricciardo said.
"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 10, 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."