The one race that Jules Bianchi could not complete
Formula One driver Jules Bianchi, who had been in a coma following severe head injuries sustained in last October's Japanese Grand Prix, passed away in the early hours of Saturday morning, according to a statement from his family. He was 25.
Also read: F1 driver Jules Bianchi dies after 9 months in coma, motorsport world mourns
Jules Bianchi at the Formula One pre-season test in Jerez, Spain on January 31, 2014. Pic/AFP
"It is with deep sadness that the parents of Jules Bianchi, Philippe and Christine, his brother Tom and sister Mélanie, wish to make it known that Jules passed away on Friday night at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (CHU) in Nice, (France)…," the Bianchi family said in a statement.
Bianchi suffered severe head injuries in an accident in last October's Japanese Grand Prix when he went off the track in treacherous conditions and crashed into a recovery vehicle retrieving Adrian Sutil's stricken Sauber.
He was initially treated at a hospital in Japan but was later moved to a hospital in his hometown Nice. He had been in a coma ever since the accident. "Jules fought right to the very end, as he always did, but today his battle came to an end," the family said in the statement.
The Bianchi family is no stranger to the tragedies of motor-racing. Bianchi's great uncle Lucien, who also briefly competed in Formula One, was killed in a testing accident ahead of the 1969 24 Hours of Le Mans sportscar race while his grandfather also suffered a career-ending crash.
Just days ago, Bianchi's father Philippe told a French radio station that his optimism that his son could recover from his injuries had dimmed. He is the first driver to die from injuries sustained in an accident during a grand prix weekend since Ayrton Senna was killed at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix at Imola.
Bianchi first sat in a go-kart at the age of three. He quickly proved his talent and speed and, managed by Nicolas Todt son of FIA president and former Ferrari team-principal Jean, progressed swiftly up the motor-racing ladder. He was signed by Ferrari to its young driver development programme at the end of 2009 and, still part of the Ferrari stable, moved up to a test and reserve driver role with the Force India squad in 2012.
He got his Formula One break in 2013 when he was drafted in at the eleventh hour to replace Brazilian Luiz Razia at the Marussia squad for the whole season after having just lost out on a Force India race seat to German Adrian Sutil.
Despite the late hour of his singing, Bianchi impressed in pre-season testing and carried his strong form over into the season. Hailed as an up and coming young driver and tipped to one day drive for Ferrari, Bianchi further marked himself out as a star of the future by scoring his and Marussia's first points ever at last year's Monaco Grand Prix, a valuable haul that secured not just ninth in the constructors' standings for the team but also its future.