Dubai: It’s four years to the day when on July 17, 2015, Jules Bianchi — the Nice-born French Formula One driver — succumbed to severe head injuries after a horrific crash at the Japanese Grand Prix in October 2014. He was in an induced coma after the crash before slipping out of consciousness and remained in that state until his death.
Under torrential downpour caused by Typhoon Phanfone, the 25-year-old Formula One driver collided with the rear end of a tractor attending to another car after he lost control and went off-track. Bianchi’s death stunned the racing world as it was the first death in the sport since Ayrton Senna in 1994.
He was the first driver signed to the Ferrari Young Drivers’ Programme, a competitive developmental track for drivers looking to race at the highest level of motorsport. Bianchi paved the way for drivers such as Charles Leclerc, Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll and Mick Schumacher who graduated from Ferrari’s talent scouting efforts to see success in the big league.
Bianchi and current Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc were extremely close friends and Bianchi served as a test driver for the Italian motorsport powerhouse as well. The Frenchman was a talented racer and was touted to be Ferrari’s replacement for Fernando Alonso.
In an interview, Leclerc mentioned that he frequently remembers his late friend. “Sometimes people compare me to Jules, and it always brings a smile to my face. He was a good guy and one of my best friends. If my style and mannerism reminds people of Jules, I’m happy about it.”
Since his death, several initiatives have been put in place to continue his legacy and make a way for the next generation of drivers. Association Jules Bianchi #17, started by Jules’ father and supported by Prince Albert of Monaco, the programme supports young drivers, especially in go-karting and single-seaters.
In a tribute video put together by Formula 1, he had kind words paid to him by Grosjean, Massa, Ricciardo, Bottas and Alonso. It’s safe to say, he was a popular and well-respected name around the paddock, regardless of his age.
Known for his tenacity on the track, Bianchi will always be remembered for his drive at Monaco in 2014. Driving an underpowered car for backmarker team, Marussia, Bianchi pushed hard to finish in P9 and record a historic points finish for the fledgling team.
Jules, as he was affectionately known by friends and fans, had always said he wanted to be a world champion one day. Though that dream died young, it is comforting to know that the Formula 1 world still remembers Jules and the lasting impression he had on the sport.
— The writer is an intern with Gulf News