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Bianchi dies 9 months after Suzuka crash

2015-07-18 09:06

NOT FORGOTTEN: Marussia driver Jules Bianchi shortly before the fateful accident in Japan. He died in France nine months later. Image: Facebook

PETER RUTHERFORD and ALAN BALDWIN

NICE, France - French Formula 1 driver Jules Bianchi has nine months after sustaining critical head injuries in a horror crash at the 2014 Japanese F1 GP.

He was 25.

Bianchi had been in a coma since the crash at Suzuka last October. He died in a hospital here in Nice, not far from his parents' home in the south of France.

FIRST DEATH SINCE SENNA

A statement from the family read: "Jules fought right to the very end, as he always did, but today his battle came to an end.

"The pain we feel is immense and indescribable."

Bianchi was the first driver since Brazilian three-times F1 champion Ayrton Senna, killed at Italy's Imola circuit in May 1994, to die from injuries sustained during a GP weekend. His racing team, Manor, said:

"We are devastated to lose Jules after such a hard-fought battle. It was a privilege to have him race for our team."

The Frenchman suffered severe head injuries when, in rain and fading light, his Marussia car slammed under a recovery tractor while it was attempting to remove Adrian Sutil's crashed Sauber.

Television images of the October 5 accident, which were not publicly broadcast but have since been posted on the internet, showed the Marussia's roll hoop had been ripped off in the terrifying impact.

The race was stopped and the unconscious driver was extracted from the wrecked car and taken by road ambulance to a nearby hospital.

Bianchi, who was also contracted to Ferrari and was considered to have a bright future in the sport, was initially treated in the Mie General Medical Centre in Yokkaichi.

His parents and siblings flew out from France and were a constant presence at his bedside, hoping against hope for a miracle.

'HEARTS AND MINDS'

An International Automobile Federation report said in December that the Frenchman had not slowed sufficiently under warning flags before crashing.

The report found that Bianchi's car hit the tractor at 126km/h and said medical services were not at fault in their handling of the aftermath.

His family praised medical staff in Nice and Mie Prefecture for their care over the last nine months and asked for privacy as they sought to come to terms with the loss.

The statement added: "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 be respected during this difficult time while we try to come to terms with the loss of Jules."

'HARD TO GET UP'

Bianchi's father, Philippe, had told French radio earlier this month that he was "less optimistic" of a recovery. In May he said they had been preparing for the worst.

"It's hard to get up in the morning while telling yourself that you're not sure whether your son is going to live and every day is like that," he said then.

Stay with Wheels24 for the 2015 Formula 1 season. Fresh reports every day.

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