It was the number he wanted (but which would be taken by Nico Hulkenberg) and a drive he seemed destined for. Former Ferrari President Luca Di Montezemolo confirming the path which had been set in place. “He was the driver we had chosen for the future, once the collaboration with Kimi Raikkonen had finished.”
Jules had the pedigree. Racing was in his blood.
Grandson of GT racer and non-championship F1 driver, Mauro Bianchi.
Grandnephew of Lucien Bianchi, F1 driver from 1959 – 1968, and winner of the 1968 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Born in Nice, Jules began karting at a temporary track managed by his father.
Racing since he was 3 ½ , after twelve years racing karts, Jules met and was managed from early in his car racing career by Nicolas Todt, son of ex Ferrari boss and FIA president Jean Todt. The link was always to Ferrari.
Winning in French Formula Renault 2.0 in 2007. With 5 wins, 5 poles & 10 fastest laps.
Graduating in 2008 to the Formula 3 Euroseries with ART, claiming 3rd, and winning the Masters. Winning the Euroseries in 2009 (again driving for ART), with 9 win, 6 poles & 7 fastest laps, and signing a contract with Ferrari that winter.
Jules Bianchi vs Christian Vietoris, GP2 Silverstone ’11
2010 would see Jules make the step up to GP2 with ART (Now Lotus ART) He would secure no race wins that year, but took 3rd in the Championship. 3rd again in 2011, with 1 race win, seemed like momentum had faded in his career but for the announcement of Jules as Ferrari’s test and reserve driver. In 2012 he would be loaned out to Force India as test and reserve driver and seemed set for a race seat when Nico Hulkenberg departed for Sauber. Unfortunately Jules found his path to Formula 1 blocked by the returning Adrian Sutil, and so he would have to bide his time until Marussia arrived in 2013.
Jules’ pace seemed lost in the Marussia, however he was consistently outperforming both his teammate, Max Chilton, and both Caterham cars. His pace, and 13th place in Malaysia, securing Marussia’s place ahead of Caterham. For the new Hybrid era regulations Marussia would move from Cosworth (Who would not be supplying engines to the new regulations) to Ferrari power. At Monaco Jules would shine. With both aggression and needle-like precision, and despite penalties acquired during the race, he took a hard fought and financially vital first (and only) points finish. At the heart of the Principality, beside his home town of Nice, Jules Bianchi secured his reputation of being one of Formula 1’s brightest young talents.
The stage seemed set for Jules to emulate his countryman Alain Prost and have the honour of driving for the prancing horse, but a cruel twist was to come in 2014.
Jules’ fate was sealed on that tragic day at a rain soaked Suzuka. One horrific moment. That crash. From then on the world of his family and friends’ changed forever. As weeks turned to months, Jules’ father seemed to be facing up to their families worst fears.
“There are moments watching Jules lying in his bed, without a scratch or anything, I have to give him a peck on the cheek and say, ‘Come on get up, what are you doing lying there? Let’s get away from Japan, Jules. We go home’.”
“It’s unbearable, it is a daily torture. I sometimes think I’m going to go crazy because for me it is certainly worse than if it had ended with the accident because we don’t have the power to help more than we do,”
“When you’re in this situation, we cling to everything,” said Bianchi. “It’s hard to get up in the morning saying that you are not sure that your son will live and that will be the same every day.
“We had an extremely bright son, who lived his passion, who was travelling around the world and overnight this son that has been on the phone every day ends up on a hospital bed hanging between life and death.”
On Saturday 18th July 2015 Bianchi’s family released the following statement:
“It is with deep sadness that the parents of Jules Bianchi, Philippe and Christine, his brother Tom and sister Mélanie, wish to make it known that Jules passed away last night at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (CHU) in Nice, (France) where he was admitted following the accident of 5th October 2014 at Suzuka Circuit during the Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix.
“Jules fought right to the very end, as he always did, but today his battle came to an end,” said the Bianchi family. “The pain we feel is immense and indescribable. 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.”
I apologise for the use of so many quotes here. I have no words for the loss that the families and friends of Jules Bianchi have suffered. I have only my thoughts and prayers to send to them and all at Marussia/Manor, who have suffered the loss of a 2nd driver in such a short time, after María de Villota. It is a dark time for Formula 1. The first death resulting from a racing weekend since the loss of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994.
I respect the decision of the FIA to retire Jules’ number from Formula 1. In an era where the driver selects their number it is a touching tribute to do so. Now is not the time to discuss the iconic numbers that may or may not have been retired. May they never have to do so again.
Jean Todt: “As F1 car numbers are now personally chosen by each driver, the FIA believes it to be an appropriate gesture to retire Jules Bianchi’s number 17.
As a result, this number can no longer be used for a car competing in the FIA Formula One World Championship.”
Remember his charm.
Remember that guile.
Remember his cheeky smile.
Remember his racecraft.
Remember THAT drive.
Remember we’ll see you again some time.
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