Jules Bianchi 1989 – 2015

It is with great sadness that I must report the death last night of Jules Bianchi, at the age of 25. Bianchi had been in hospital in Nice since November, having been repatriated from Japan after his unfortunate collision with a safety vehicle during the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka on October 5 last year.

Of all the Formula 1 racers of the modern era, Bianchi was the one with perhaps the best understanding of what motorsport is truly like. He came from a family that knew only too well about the triumphs and tragedies of the sport. His great-grandfather had been a mechanic with the Alfa Romeo factory team in the 1930s, before moving to Belgium to work with racer Johnny Claes. Bianchi’s two sons became Belgian citizens as a result of that move and both Lucien and Mauro turned to motor racing in their teens. Lucien’s first event was the Alpine Rally in 1951 when he was just 17 years old. There was not much money but Lucien did well and teamed with Olivier Gendebien he won the Tour de France Automobile in 1957.He won the event for three consecutive years. He won the Paris 1000 sports car race at Montlhery several times as well and in 1960 fulfilled an ambition by making his F1 debut, albeit in an old Cooper and then moved on to join Ecurie Nationale Belge, driving an uncompetitive Emeryson. After that experience he went back to touring cars, sportscars and rallying, enjoying successes in all of them, winning the Liege-Sofia-Liege for Citroen in 1961 and leading the London-Sydney Marathon before colliding with a non-competing car. He went on to win the Sebring 12 Hours in 1962 at the wheel of a Ferrari which he shared with Jo Bonnier and then in 1968 went back to Formula 1 as a member of the Cooper-BRM team. That same year his brother Mauro (Jules’s grandfather) was seriously injured in a fiery accident at Le Mans which ended his career and left him badly scarred. Lucien won the race with a Gulf-sponsored Ford GT40, which he shared with Pedro Rodriguez. Early in 1969 he was testing for the Alfa Romeo team when his car suffered a mechanical failure on the Mulsanne Straight and crashed into a telegraph pole. He was killed instantly. As a result of the accidents the family frowned on any active racing in the next generation but Mauro’s son Philippe ran a kart track at Antibes on the French Riviera. Jules grew up watching the racing and as soon as his feet could touch the pedals of a kart he was at the wheel. He was unable to race until he was 10 but he enjoyed a successful karting career before switching to cars and winning the French Formula Renault 2.0 title in 2007, with five victories. He moved to Formula 3 with ART Grand Prix and in 2008 won the Masters of Formula 3 at Zolder and finished third Formula 3 Euro Series. He returned to the same series in 2009, alongside team-mates Valtteri Bottas, Esteban Gutiérrez and Adrien Tambay and dominated, winning nine races. He moved to GP2 with ART in 2010 and later that year was named as a Ferrari test driver for 2011. He continued to race in GP2 and later the Renault 3.5 World Series and was signed to race for Marussia in F1 in 2013. He finished eighth on the road in Monaco in 2014, but dropped to ninth as a result of a penalty. Those points, however, won the team prize money for 2015 and 2016 and became the only reason that the team was able to survive its period of administration and revive this year. Alas, the accident at Suzuka followed.

Motor racing is a cruel sport, despite the best efforts that are made to try to protect the drivers from all possible dangers. Even with the knowledge of what his family had had to endure, Bianchi chose to pursue F1 as his career. He knew what he was doing. Motor racing is dangerous and the competitors know the risks that they take. The safety levels in F1 are impressive, but when one is pushing the limits there are always going to be accidents and, sadly, Jules Bianchi fell victim to one. It should be remembered that this is the first death resulting from an accident in a Grand Prix since Ayrton Senna 21 years ago at Imola.

The greatest sadness is perhaps the wasted potential – as with so many accidents in the history of the sport. Bianchi was a Ferrari young driver and if all had gone to plan he would perhaps have ended up racing for the great Italian team.

“The pain we feel is immense and indescribable,” his family said this morning in a statement. “We wish to thank the medical staff at Nice’s CHU who looked after him with love and dedication. We also thank the staff of the General Medical Center in the Mie Prefecture (Japan) who looked after Jules immediately after the accident, as well as all the other doctors who have been involved with his care over the past months. Furthermore, 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. We would like to ask that our privacy is respected during this difficult time, while we try to come to terms with the loss of Jules.”

Jules is survived by his parents Philippe and Christine, his brother Tom and sister Mélanie.

70 thoughts on “Jules Bianchi 1989 – 2015

  1. Dear Joe,
    Commenting on this story seems a little odd, as anything I might say cannot but appear trite. However, as I watch and discuss every GP with my two boys (aged 6 and 8) I read them your story, as we periodically raised the topic of Jules. It brought tears to their eyes knowing that he is finally gone, but I think for me the most touching part was the comment “At least he got to drive racing cars”. It was their way of saying Jules died as a result of following his dream and doing what he loved. It doesn’t make it better, nor a more acceptable loss, but for them, and me, made it seem a little less pointless.
    Thanks for always keeping us up to date and, more importantly, in touch.
    Regards,
    Peter

    1. I vaguely remember watching the Senna crash on TV, but I vividly remember hours later riding my bike on the drive as my Dad pulled up. He got out and told me that Ayrton had died. Tears filled my eyes, just as you describe with your boys.

      Ayrton wasn’t my favourite driver (I was 8 and didn’t quite appreciate the greatness at that point) but that memory has stayed with me for ever.

      Rest in peace Jules, may many always remember you.

  2. Hi Joe this is only the first driver death as the result of an accident a GP in the last 21 years.

    Sadly we have lost more than one marshal.

  3. Such is the fragile balance of life in the business of professional motor sport.

    Having lost my closest friend, Allan Simonsen, at he 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans, I feel deeply saddened by this news.

    Cold comfort, as it maybe, both Jules and Allan were doing what they loved most, until the end.

    It is particularly difficult to accept both perished, to some extent, connected to questionable safety procedures and expected standards.

    RIP Jules.

    You’ll find Allan, along with Sean Edwards, wonderful company.

    None of you, will ever be forgotten.

  4. Having read Gary Hartstein’s blogs on Michael Schumacher I kind of felt this was inevitable, given the length of time that passed and Jules’ lack of progress. However it’s still desperately sad and I have a tear in my eye as I write. The only positive I can think of (if that’s the right word) is at least his family are no longer in limbo, not knowing what will happen. However their sense of loss will be enormous, while we will always wonder what he could have achieved if/when he got his hands on a Ferrari. Rest in peace, Jules.

  5. I want to say something but I don’t know what to say! I feel sadness for Jules’ familly and for Jules himself, but he will be happy now and will not have any bad feelings about anyone or any thing. Jules will be better now than he ever has been. The problem now is how the familly feels, and I hope they can accept that Jules died doing what he knew was dangerous, but he loved the risks.
    Regards to them,
    PK.

  6. “It should be remembered that this is the first death resulting from an accident in a Grand Prix since Ayrton Senna 21 years ago at Imola.”

    Really? I’m not sure the family of Graham Beveridge would agree.

    That aside, a touching piece and a sad loss to the entire motorsport world.

  7. My heartfelt condolences to the Bianchi family.

    As time passes I hope they remember the innings and not the dismissal. They have so much to be proud of.

  8. Senna was not the last person to die in a Grand Prix accident. It was Graham Beveridge (Australian GP 2001). And before that Paulo Gislimberti (Italian GP 2000). May Bianchi rest in peace but let’s not forget that drivers are not the only ones at risk in F1.

      1. Didn’t forget Mark Robinson (Canadian GP 2013) but neither he, nor Maria de Villota died in “Grand Prix accidents”. BTW the investigation found that Robinson’s death was due to negligence by the organizers who were fined as a result.

  9. My deepest condolances to the family..it must be difficult to endure this since last year.
    I believe it is time to acknowledge that F1 with all it’s safety measures that were taken since Senna and Ratzenberger accident, was never gonna be 100% fully safe. RIP Maria de Villota, Jules Bianchi…
    I think it is time we must reconsider the F1 with a jetfighter-like canopy

      1. RIP Jules

        Joe, one may have said it would be F1 with hybrid turbo engines, or DRS many years ago. … and enclosed monocoque has been discussed before, and while may not have aided in this tragic case, if implemented down the line does not make it “not F1”

        1. No, there is a difference. Hybrid engines and DRS do not fundamentally change the look of F1 cars. A canopy does. It becomes a sports car.

    1. Absolutely not. Much as I regret any accident, canopies would make F1 unwatchable as far as I’m concerned. Drivers know the risks, it’s up to them whether or not they drive. I know you’re thinking “that’s alright for you to say”, but life is full of choices and F1 is not one you need to make.

  10. Everything has been said….but today, it hurts even more as everybody’s talking about kimi’s seat at Ferrari. Today, we should have talked about Jules as the new 2016 ferrari driver!!!!
    For french fan “the should have been” is, in some way, the same as François Cevert was.
    RIP Jules, we always love you.

  11. RIP Jules. I feel desperately sad for his family and friends.

    Nostalgia works in strange ways – I have that empty feeling that I recall from my teens when we would lose drivers every year.

    As Mario Andretti put it: Sometimes racing is also this…

  12. How sad that a beautiful article written to commemorate a talented individual has attracted snide comments… it’s obvious Joe was referring to driver deaths, perhaps consider how hard this article were for him to write before taking cheap shots at the guy.

    1. adz87 – you’re spot-on here. With you 100%. I thought the same. It was (or should have been) obvious to anybody with even a miniscule amount of common sense that Joe was referring to ‘drivers’. I was a huge fan of Ayrton and as Joe has correctly pointed out, Jules is the first (competitor) to die as a result of injuries sustained in a race since Ayrton. Jules’s death has brought back some of the terrible emotions of 1994 as did the deaths of Greg Moore & Dan Wheldon in Indycar; all great talents taken far too soon. Of course I remember the marshal at Monza and that was tragic too and devastating for the family. Another beautiful article written at a tragic time by Joe as he’s done in the past and, hopefully, will continue to do. The vast majority of us really appreciate it.

      1. There have been two marshals killed in racing accidents since 1994: Paolo Ghislimberti at Monza in 2000 and Graham Beveridge in Melbourne in 2001, both hit by flying wreckage. Mark Robinson, who was run over by a rescue vehicle in Montreal in 2013, was not a victim of a racing accident per se, but should be remembered nonetheless. However one has to draw a line somewhere.

    2. Thanks for your reply Joe and for your input Nick

      I remember watching Dan Wheldon’s crash and it still sends shivers down my spine to this day… the fact is this.

      Motorsport is dangerous, whether it’s sliding around a go kart track or at the pinnacle of F1, racers do what they (we) do for the fun and passion of the sport, but no one should die at its hand.

      Joe’s piece is one of the best i’ve read on the topic so i felt compelled to write and thank him as so many have done.

      Here’s hoping this season is remembered for the right reasons and that Manor get the success they deserve, if it wasn’t for the points Jules won they wouldn’t be on the grid, his legacy lives on with them.

  13. ” They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old “, ( Robert Laurence Binyon ), although terrible for his family, and a great loss for the motorsport community, poor Jules death now, after all these months in a coma, might be seen to count as a merciful release, when nothing modern science could do, would bring him back to any possible life again.
    He looked like a solid performer and quite possibly a real talent in the right car, but now will join that pantheon of drivers who perished doing what they loved most. Their legacy is to remain locked in our memories, frozen in time, never to age in our minds.
    My thoughts are with his family, and only hope that they can draw comfort from the fact that Jules brought a huge amount of pleasure to many people all over the world. Few, if any of us, gets that sort of chance in our lives.
    R.I.P Jules.

  14. Very sad I thinking of Jules when they had the virtual safety car and recovery vehicle in the British GP last time. Condolences to his family.

  15. Devastating news Joe. Thanks for a well written piece. Do you think the powers that be should consider retiring No.17 permanently out of respect?

    1. That, I have to say, is an excellent idea. So much so that I doubt it will ever occur to the philistines that run F1 these days.

      #TousAvecJules

  16. Thank you Joe for this post. However, if driving an F1 car didn’t cause the death of Maria de Villota, what did?

    1. Joe specifically says an accident at a Grand Prix. It seems a bit churlish to be pointing out what’s written above when someone has died, but MdV did not die or become injured through an accident at a Grand Prix.

  17. Joe thank you for the sincere and historical context of you tribute to Jules. It is something you have done well for years and serves as a fitting memorial to those we have lost. I am sure the family will appreciate this as much as I did.

    Motor racing and life will never be zero risk. Even if we all could eliminate Illness and disease tomorrow many would succumb to accidents, they will be no less tragic when they occur. The only fitting thing to do in the face of such loss is to do our level best to prevent the same mistake occuring again. If the powers that be don’t step up then it is the place of the fans and community at large to make there voices heard. Never again should any heavy equipment be on a track with cars. That is the fitting legacy of the loss of this young man’s precious life and his contribution to the greater good. But we should not think this is the last life we will loose in F1. We can pray it is not, losses may get to be rare events, but risks will be there. We can only hope to reduce the frequency and severity of the risks.

  18. Sad day. Tears. I had hoped to see him race in Austin this year. He’ll go on to be remembered with the other heroes of F1, and many younger racers today will give their wins to his honor.

    Now somebody has a very fast angel, at least. RIP Jules. -NMJeff

  19. So sad to hear this terrible news of Jules Bianchi’s passing. He certainly was doing his best to reach out to the fans at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on the Thursday before the Canadian Grand Prix last year, as during his track walk, he was signing autographs through the wire track side fencing. Mr. Bianchi is to be commended for personally issuing bulletins on the condition of his son over the last several months in those tragic circumstances. Words can’t describe what Jules’ family must be going through. Sincerest condolences to Jules’ family.

  20. This is a tragedy, my love and support go out to the Bianchi family.
    Thank you for providing a beautiful historical piece of the family’s continued historical record in motorsport.
    Riposa in Pace

    Repose en Paix

    Tao

  21. Rest in peace, Jules!
    Our sincere condoleances to your beloved…

    Very sorry it ends this tragic and unnecessary way – glad you had your highlights…
    Rest in peace.

  22. I never met him and I don’t know to what level he was going to rise in the world of F1 (certainly more than a back of the grid driver seems to be a given) but I can say I very much enjoyed seeing a quiet and humble young man in interviews. He remained fascinating and engaging without being too self involved – a rare thing in any ego-driven sport like this. As others have said he knew the risks and got to fulfill part of his dreams by getting to the F1 grid. As others have also pointed out he saved the Manor/Marussia endeavour with those Monaco points and the subsequent cash flow. Surely not his dream but a fitting memorial – I just hope that Bernie allows the FOM directors to show the Manor cars and remind people that a team has clung on even if their star driver has not.

  23. Desperately sad to hear.

    Unfortunately, with any medical issue, all I as an observer can do, is cling to hope that there is a route to recovery.

    The hyperlink you gave us, to an explanation of what the revealed injury name meant, in literally your first coverage of the crash, it was clear to me that there was no way back.

    Such a loss of potential. Such a shame.

  24. Joe, thanks for all the relevant background detailing why the sport was in his DNA, memories of the Gulf sponsored GT40 came rushing back.
    A very sad day for the family, Jules was an obvious talent destined for a successful career and from what I saw of him through the box, a thoroughly nice guy too. RIP Jules.

  25. A sad sad day that I feared for a while. How I loved seeing Bianchi race that Marussia, you could see glimpses of his talent shine through.

    My thoughts to the family and a thank you to Jules for the enjoyment I had to see him race. I will never forget him.

  26. I received the news last night as an alert on my iPhone and was saddened. I will say that I was pretty much expecting it since his father mentioned several days back that he wasn’t making any progress. One thing I’m sure of and have faith in, is that he’s in a better place now, than where he’s been these last nine months or so. Condolences to his family and friends. Godspeed Jules.

  27. Desperately sad. RIP Jules. I’m convinced that you would have become a permanent fixture in F1 and gone on to greater things in motorsport, given the right machinery. RIP. Condolences to your family also.

  28. Joe,
    Bianchi’s accident and death highlighted again the importance of F1 safety. Do you believe that some of the ideas for proposed for 2017 i.e retrintroducing cars with ground effect aerodynamics would put future driver safety more at risk than it is now.

  29. I do not know why but it has been a long time since I wanted a driver to succeed as much as Jules. A picture, an article, perhaps a comment he made.
    This is not how it was to be. I am so sad and there have been tears but I cannot imagine how this is for all of you who knew him and for his family. RIP Jules

  30. I remember running into Jules back in 2009. At that time he was eating up the competition in F3 and we all saw the F1 star in the making. He was a kind and approachable young man in those days and I doubt he changed very much on that account (also judging by the reports and obituaries nowadays) since he entered F1. Maybe Joe (who’s opinion I highly rate) could shed some light on that.
    In fact, I was somewhat surprised it took him another 3 years to get into F1, but there is no copy career for any of the drivers.
    I am also sure that Jules’ name would have ranked at #1 as replacement of Kimi. I am convinced he could pull it off.
    You could say he died doing what he liked best, but it never takes away the hurt his family and friends must feel. My thoughts are with you.

  31. Very nice write up. Unfortunately, an accident will happen again.

    My hope is that will not involve spectators such as Michigan in 1998. (I saw the tire go into the stands)

    .My condolences to the family of Jules Bianchi. Their loss is beyond words.

    Steve

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