Jules Bianchi Passed Away Seven Years Ago Today.. It is exactly seven years since Formula 1 driver Jules Bianchi died as a result of a serious accident that occurred during the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix. Still every year on 17 July, the racing world pays tribute to Bianchi.
The Frenchman was a driver who everyone sensed could achieve a lot of success in the premier class of motor sport. He was one of the most promising drivers of his generation and it was expected that Bianchi would eventually join the Ferrari team.
In 2009, Bianchi tested for the Ferrari team at the Jerez circuit in Spain. In the years that followed, the Frenchman was in the picture for a long time at the Force India team, where he became a test driver. In 2013, the Marussia F1 Team announced that Bianchi would drive for them. Despite a poor car, Bianchi managed to show his talent. It was really expected that Bianchi could become a great driver, if he could get the chance to join a top team.
The chance everyone was hoping for, however, did not materialise. During the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, disaster struck. Heavy rain caused Adrian Sutil’s car to slide off the track at Suzuka. While the marshals were working with a shovel to remove his car from the track, Bianchi’s car slid off the track at exactly the same point. He collided with the shovel at high speed.
Brain damage followed by coma
The crash was so severe that Bianchi suffered serious brain damage and ended up in a coma. The Frenchman was transferred from the hospital in Japan to the hospital in his home town of Nice. There he died about a year later on 17 July 2015. He was the first driver, since Ayrton Senna in 1994, to die as a result of an accident in the sport. Out of respect for Bianchi, his starting number 17 has been retired from use in Formula One.
As Bianchi was the first Formula One driver to die after an accident since the death of Ayrton Senna, the FIA formed a special research group. This group investigates the complexity of crashes and is committed to finding ways to reduce the risk of a crash in similar situations that do not warrant the use of a safety car and simply cannot be dealt with by yellow flags.
Eventually, following advice from the research group, the FIA came up with the halo. The titanium brace above the cockpit (shaped like a flip flop) was to protect the riders from flying debris during and after a crash. Despite initial protests from some drivers when it was introduced in 2018, there have already been a few cases where the halo has turned out to be an indispensable life-saving feature on current Formula One cars after all. Many opponents can no longer imagine Formula 1 without the halo.
Every year, the current Formula 1 drivers also remember Bianchi’s death. Especially for Charles Leclerc it is a difficult day: Bianchi was Leclerc’s godfather and spent a lot of time with the Frenchman. Below a small selection of social media posts dedicated to commemorate Bianchi:
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A huge talent and a much-loved member of the F1 family
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 17, 2022
— FerrariDriverAcademy (@insideFDA) July 17, 2022