18 July 2015

Jules Bianchi 1989 - 2015

Jules Bianchi was not even five years old the last time Formula 1 witnessed a death of a driver in the top division of Motorsport. It speaks volumes that the 20 years between that fateful weekend at Imola until the crash at Suzuka some nine months ago is the longest in the history of the sport between fatal accidents.

His career was more like that of Roland Ratzenberger the "other driver" whose live was lost at that May Day weekend in Imola seeing as he was at the start of his Formula 1 career rather than a success like Ayrton Senna. He has made his debut for Marussia in the Australian Grand Prix at the start of the 2013 season. His only point for his team had come in Monaco in May 2014 where he came ninth.

However, his career in lower Formula had seen him win the 2009 Formula 3 Euro Series ahead of Valterri Bottas who was third  and now races for Williams-Mercedes in F1 and Esteban Gutiérez (now Sauber) in ninth. The previous year he had been third in the same Formula when it was Nico Hülkenberg (now Force India-Mercedes).

In 2010 and 2011 he moved unto Moto GP seen as the final testing ground in racing before earning a seat in F1. In 2010 he was third in the championship behind fellow graduates to F1 Pastor Maldonado (now with Lotus-Mercedes) and Segio Pérez (now Force India-Mercedes). The following season he was again third this time the winner was Romain Grosjean (now Lotus-Mercedes) who had been 14th the season before.

The Japanese Grand Prix last year was Bianchi's 34th start in him embryonic Formula 1 career. His team Marussia were facing financial difficulties at the time he lined up in 20th place on the grid on the 5th October. Typhoon Phanfone was due to make landfall in Japan that afternoon and although the typhoon itself was to miss the circuit. The heavy rainfall from the northern edge did however mean that the race started under safety car only to be red flagged after a mere two laps, with the cars lining up in the pit lane instead of the gird as is normal bringing a fear of cancellation. But 20 minutes later the race was under way again, although once more initially under safety car after the ninth lap the racing was finally underway as the safety car was pulled in.

It was an incident on lap 42 that was to prove fateful for Bianchi. It was the Sauber of Adrian Sutil that was had spun and crashed into the run off area on the outside of turn 7 the Dunlop curve. But on the following lap while Sutil's car was being removed from the track Bianchi came off at high speed at the Dunlop curve and collided with the crane involved in removing the damaged Sauber. He was unconscious as a result of the crash not responding to team radio and was rushed to hospital for surgery to reduce severe bruising to the brain. He was kept in an induced coma since the incident but died as result of those injuries last night.

Shortly after the crash, it was announced that had Formula 1 allowed three cars a team this season that Bianchi was to have become the third driver for Ferarri. Marussia made their final appearance at a Grand Prix the following weekend at the inaugural Russian Grand Prix but failed to compete for the rest of the season. This season it has arisen as Manor-Marussia though has yet to register a point.

Jules Bianchi 3 August 1989 - 17 July 2015