Nice (France): Formula One driver Jules Bianchi has died nine months after suffering severe head injuries in a crash at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, uniting the motorsport world in paying tribute to him.
Bianchi, 25, had been in a coma since last October after his Marussia car collided with a recovery vehicle in wet conditions during the closing stages of the Japanese Grand Prix on October 5 last year. He died on Friday night.
Bianchi sustained serious head injuries in the Suzuka accident, which occurred in heavy rain under yellow-flag conditions. As marshals were working to recover the damaged Sauber of Adrian Sutil, who had crashed out a lap earlier, Bianchi lost control of his car, travelled across the run-off area and hit the back of the recovery vehicle.
F1 driver Jules Bianchi. Pic/AFP
Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One group CEO, stated: "It was so sad to hear the news about Jules. We are now going to miss a very talented driver and a really nice person. We must not let this ever happen again."
His family said, "Jules fought right to the very end, as he always did, but today his battle came to an end."
Marussia, now known as Manor, said the team was 'devastated'.
Bianchi is the first F1 driver to die from injuries sustained in a Grand Prix since Brazilian triple world champion Ayrton Senna was killed at Italy's Imola circuit in 1994.
His family said, "We thank Jules's colleagues, friends, fans and everyone who has demonstrated their affection for him over these past months, which gave us great strength and helped us deal with such difficult times.
"Listening to and reading the many messages made us realise just how much Jules had touched the hearts and minds of so many people all over the world."
Bianchi made his F1 debut with Marussia in 2013 and was also a member of the Ferrari young driver academy after previously working as a test driver for the team.
The Manor team tweeted, "We are devastated to lose Jules after such a hard-fought battle. It was a privilege to have him race for our team."
The accident happened when Bianchi's car slid off the track and into a crane picking up German driver Adrian Sutil, who had crashed at the same spot one lap earlier.
Bianchi died in hospital near his family’s French home in Nice, where he was transferred from Japan last November. The family expressed their gratitude to doctors in both countries, as well as paying tribute to all those who had lent their support from afar.
"We thank Jules’ colleagues, friends, fans and everyone who has demonstrated their affection for him over these past months, which gave us great strength and helped us deal with such difficult times.
Listening to and reading the many messages made us realise just how much Jules had touched the hearts and minds of so many people all over the world."
Following news of his passing, the motorsport world expressed their grief via social media.
"No words can describe what his family and the sport have lost All I can say it was a pleasure knowing and racing you," said Bianchi’s 2014 team mate Max Chilton.
Fellow Frenchman and Lotus F1 driver Romain Grosjean stated: "Yesterday we lost one of the best guys and best drivers I've ever met. I'll miss you so much my friend..."
McLaren's Jenson Button said: "Last night we lost a truly great guy and a real fighter. RIP Jules. My sincerest condolences to his family and friends."
India's former F1 driver Karun Chandhok said: "Goodbye Jules... One of those great 'what could've been' careers like Tom Pryce, Francois Cevert or Gilles Villeneuve before him. RIP Jules."
"My condolences to the Bianchi family and friends, everyone at Manor, his management team, Nicolas Todt. The world is a poorer place today."
The Sauber Formula 1 team said: "What terrible news this morning. Our deepest condolences to Jules' family and friends. Rest in peace Jules, you will be greatly missed!"
Bianchi is survived by parents Philippe and Christine, brother Tom and sister Melanie. The family have asked that their privacy is respected during this difficult time, while they try to come to terms with their loss.