Sunday, July 16, 2017

"Remembering" Jules Bianchi

August 3, 1989 - July 17, 2015
Jules Bianchi
Born in Nice, France.
Bianchi was the grandson of Mauro Bianchi, who competed in GT racing during the 1960s and three non-championship Formula One Grands Prix in 1961. He was also the grandnephew of Lucien, who competed in 19 Formula One Grands Prix between 1959 and 1968 and won the 1968 24 Hours of Le Mans, before dying during Le Mans testing the following year.

Bianchi's exposure to motorsport started at around 3 years of age through karting and was facilitated by the fact that his father Philippe owned a kart track. Since age 17, Bianchi was professionally managed by Nicolas Todt.

In 2007, Bianchi left karting and raced in French Formula Renault 2.0 for SG Formula, where he finished as champion with five wins. He also competed in the Formula Renault Eurocup where he had one pole position and one fastest lap in three races.

Bianchi opted to switch to the Formula Renault 3.5 Series for 2012, following his one-off appearance in the category in 2009. He signed for the Tech 1 Racing team and was partnered with Kevin Korjus, and later with Daniel Abt. He finished second in the title race, narrowly losing out to Robin Frijns at the final round.

In August 2009, Bianchi was linked by the BBC and various other media sources to the second Ferrari Formula One seat occupied by Luca Badoer during Felipe Massa's absence. Bianchi tested for Ferrari at the young drivers test at Circuito de Jerez for two days in December 2009. Bianchi's performance in this test led to him becoming the first recruit of the Ferrari Driver Academy and signing a long-term deal to remain at the team's disposal.

On November 11, 2010 he was confirmed by Ferrari as the team's test and reserve driver for the 2011 season, replacing Luca Badoer, Giancarlo Fisichella and Marc Gené, as well as confirming he would test for the team during the young driver test in Abu Dhabi on November 16-17. Bianchi carried on his GP2 racing, as Formula 1 allows test and reserve drivers to race in parallel in other competitions. On September 13, 2011 Bianchi tested for Ferrari at Fiorano, as part of the Ferrari Driver Academy, with fellow academy member and Sauber F1 driver Sergio Pérez. Bianchi completed 70 laps and recorded a quickest lap time of 1:00.213. For the 2012 season, Ferrari loaned him to the Sahara Force India team, for whom he drove in nine Friday free practice sessions over the course of the year as the outfit's test and reserve driver.

In 2013, he made his debut driving for Marussia, finishing 15th in his opening race in Australia and ended the season in 19th position without scoring any points. His best result that year was 13th at the Malaysian Grand Prix. In October 2013, the team confirmed that he would drive for the team the following season. In the 2014 season, he scored both his and the Marussia's first points in Formula One at the Monaco Grand Prix.

On October 5, 2014 during the Japanese Grand Prix, Bianchi lost control of his Marussia in very wet conditions and collided with a recovery vehicle, suffering a diffuse axonal injury. He underwent emergency surgery and was placed into an induced coma, and remained comatose until his death on July  17, 2015. Bianchi is the first Formula One driver killed as a result of an accident during a race event since Ayrton Senna at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

The funeral service was held at the Nice Cathedral, on July 21, 2015. He lies at rest in his native city. Many prominent driver figures attended Bianchi's funeral, such as Alexander Wurz, Esteban Gutiérrez, Allan McNish, Alexander Rossi, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel, Jean-Éric Vergne, Marcus Ericsson, Roberto Merhi, Adrian Sutil, Valtteri Bottas, Pastor Maldonado, Pedro de la Rosa, Romain Grosjean, Daniel Ricciardo, Felipe Massa, Alain Prost, Nico Hülkenberg, Olivier Panis, Daniil Kvyat and Max Chilton.

In December 2015, Bianchi's father announced plans to create a foundation in his son's honour to uncover and nurture young drivers throughout their career. The initiative involves exhibiting Jules Bianchi’s memorabilia and merchandising with JB17 branding, sponsoring opportunities and events. Among the supporters is Prince Albert of Monaco, where the foundation is based.
Drivers stood together to remember Jules Bianchi ahead of the 2015 Hungary Grand Prix

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