It has been confirmed today Marussia Formula One driver Jules Bianchi passed away at the Le Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Nice.
He was 25.
Bianchi had been in a coma since crashing out into a recovery vehicle during a safety car period during last year’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Bianchi’s passing means that Formula One’s 21-year spell without a fatality has sadly come to an end.
The Marussia racer secured what would be the best result of his career at Monaco last season, when he was classified in 9th position (having finished 8th on the road), earning the Anglo-Russian team their first and only points.
This is sadly not the first tragedy to hit the Bianchi family – Jules’ granduncle Lucien Bianchi, also a former F1 driver, was killed at Le Mans in March 1969 during an early season test session.
Ironically, Lucien also scored his best Formula One result at Monaco – a podium in 1968 with the Cooper BRM in what was their final season in Grand Prix racing.
There really is precious little more to add, except that my sincerest thoughts go out to the Bianchi family, his friends and team.
Below is a piece tapped out shortly after Bianchi’s Suzuka accident. Even though some of the facts have changed since, it still feels somewhat relevant now.
Rest in peace Jules.
‘The Silence of it All’
October 5th, 2014
“Mercedes racer Lewis Hamilton may have won this morning’s Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, but the accident suffered by the Marussia of Jules Bianchi on lap 43 prior to Dunlop Curve rendered that mute.
Dampened celebrations – if they could be called celebrations – followed, as Hamilton with runner-up Nico Rosberg and 3rd place man Sebastian Vettel solemnly went through the motions upon a brightly lit stage.
As news spread, so did the strain upon the faces of those underneath the podium – the reality of the situation etched in line and brow.
The seriousness of Bianchi’s predicament was not immediately known; such was the positioning of the Adrian Sutil’s already stricken Sauber and location of the camera crew.
According reports from the on site media, Bianchi suffered a serious head injury when he went off track and collided with a tractor. Thereafter he was transferred to Mie General Hospital not far from the circuit, but has since come out of surgery and is breathing on his own.
Throughout his extraction, the Frenchman was said to have remained unconscious.
The reappearance of the red flag was a relief – it had already been an exhausting race by this point, but as more solid information began to filter through from the scene, a lifetime caught up with Formula One.
Such moments make a mockery of sport’s self importance, bringing to the fore the triviality of the pursuits of fast men in fast machines – these matters hold little standing of import now and amidst all of the chatter and debate, what stands out the most is the silence of it all.
Naturally there will be analysis; there will be accusations; there will theories; there may be answers, but for the moment, there is just waiting.
At this point, my only thoughts are with Jules Bianchi, his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.