Formula 1 is undoubtedly a dangerous sport. Back in the day, it was common for drivers to lose their lives while they competed against the best in the world. Over the decades, safety was prioritized in F1, particularly, after the tragic 1994 Imola GP weekend, when Ayrton Senna and Ronald Ratzenberger lost their lives. It took a gap of 25 years for the sport’s next casualty, Jules Bianchi.
Jules Bianchi was a French racing driver who made his F1 debut in 2013 with the Marussia F1 team. Although Bianchi was given uncompetitive machinery, he provided respectable results for the team. Jules’s most prominent drive was at the 2014 Monaco GP when the Frenchman finished tenth place and brought home his first F1 point.
The Marussia driver had served as the test and reserve driver for Ferrari and Force India in the past. In 2014, rumors surfaced that Jules Bianchi would get the step up to the Scuderia for 2015. As an unhappy Fernando Alonso contemplated leaving the Italian team. Unfortunately, this was not to be, as F1 witnessed its most tragic event of the new millennia.
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Jules Bianchi went through a fatal crash at the 2014 Japanese GP
The 2014 Japanese GP remains one of the darkest days in F1 history. The Suzuka circuit was hit by heavy rain as typhoon Phanfone hampered the conditions. This severely impacted the track and visibility. With drivers forced to make their way through the rain-drenched circuit. On lap 42, Adrian Sutil lost control and crashed on the outside of the Dunlop curve. This brought in a tractor crane to remove the damaged Sauber.
Unfortunately, things worsened one lap later as Jules Bianchi, too, lost control in the same section. The Frenchman’s Marussia then collided with the recovery vehicle. Jules suffered a colossal impact and went into a coma. The footage revealed the giant crash between the two vehicles. Accordingly, the race was stopped, and Lewis Hamilton won.
Jules Bianchi passed away 9 months later
Subsequently, Jules Bianchi was immediately transported to the Mie Prefectural General Medical Center in Yokkaichi and put in intensive care after suffering a severe head injury. After battling bravely for several months, Bianchi’s death was announced to the public on July 17, 2015. Additionally, it was revealed that the Frenchman had gone through a 254g impact.
The sporting world was left shocked to see such a promising young talent die at the age of 25. Jules Bianchi’s racing number ’17’ was retired from the sport as well. Drivers paid their respects to the Marussia driver at his funeral on July 21, 2015, in France. Moreover, Several drivers, including Sebastian Vettel, even helped carry the coffin of the Frenchman.
What were the Impacts of Bianchi’s death?
Jules Bianchi’s death rang alarm bells in the world of racing. This tragedy could have been avoided if the situation had been handled better and with safer cars. The FIA and F1 began work on a cockpit protection device to prevent such a horrific event in the future. Several designs were considered, be it the aero screen or the shield. Eventually, F1 introduced the halo device in 2018.
Since then, several injuries have been prevented by the halo. Be it, Charles Leclerc, during the 2018 Belgian GP or even Zhou Guanyu at the 2022 British GP. The halo serves as an embodiment of Jules Bianchi’s legacy. Thus, the Frenchman might not have lived to see the present day. But his loss was not in vain, as drivers across different series now have a safer time racing.
Unfortunately, some lessons are yet to be learned. At the 2022 Japanese GP, the recovery tractor was once again seen on the track, while cars drove past at full speed in wet conditions. This incident was called out by the drivers, who were staggered to see the FIA make such an error.
Bianchi was the godfather of current F1 driver Charles Leclerc. It is believed that Charles’s elder brother was best friends with the Marussia driver. Consequently, the Monegasque got the chance to build a strong bond with Jules Bianchi despite the massive age gap between the two. It is no wonder that the Ferrari driver hopes to make his late godfather proud through his F1 career. Moreover, the 25-year-old had once opened up about the assistance he received from Jules Bianchi. It was the French driver who managed to get Nicholas Todt on board to fund Leclerc’s final year in karting as his family struggled to pay the bills.
Charles had once stated, “When my father didn’t have the money to keep me going in karting & it was going to be my last year, Jules Bianchi was kind enough to speak of me to Nicholas Todt, who then paid for everything for me until I reached F1. So without Jules, I would be nowhere.” Even though, Jules Bianchi died too soon to accomplish his dream of driving for the Scuderia in Formula 1. His godson honors his legacy as Charles became a star driver for Maranello. Even today, the 25-year-old hopes to make Bianchi proud through his racing endeavors, with the aim of winning the world title with Ferrari.
Jules Bianchi will always be remembered in Formula 1. The Frenchman was seen as an exciting young talent who almost got the chance to race for Scuderia Ferrari. Unfortunately, this was not the case. However, Bianchi’s death remains one of the biggest lessons in modern F1 as the sport focused on safety in the following years with the introduction of the halo device. Certainly, Jules is missed on the grid to this day.
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