F1 STILL MOURNING: Friends and family surround the coffin of late French F1 driver Jules Bianch at his funeral on July 21. Image: AFP/ Valery Hache
BUDAPEST, Hungary - The effect and legacy of Jules Bianchi's death continued to reverberate through Formula 1 on Thursday (July 23 2015) as drivers, teams and other members of the paddock entourage arrived in Budapest for the Grand Prix weekend (July 25-26).
The atmosphere, days after the 25-year-old Frenchman's funeral in his family's home town of Nice in southern France, the routine of pre-race news conferences was overshadowed by memories of a driver regarded widely as a potential F1 champion.
FERRARI HONOURS BIANCHI
Ferrari decorated its garage in tributes, drivers added personal stickers to their helmets, their cars have been emblazoned with messages.
Bianchi died the previous Friday (July 17) , nine months after sustaining head injuries in a collision with a recovery vehicle in torrential rain during the 2014 Japanese F1 GP at Suzuka.
He was a Ferrari academy driver but racing for Marussia and tipped to return to Ferrari as a winner-in-the-making.
Almost all of his contemporaries in karting said they had regarded him as their yardstick, several declaring he was not only the best kart racer they had seen but also the best racing driver.
Ferrari has dedicated a pit wall in their garage at the Hungarian GP with messages for the late F1 driver Jules Bianchi:
Felipe Massa, a 34-year-old veteran of 14 seasons who regarded Bianchi as "a great friend" and "the best go-kart driver I ever saw", said: "Unfortunately, in F1, he did not have a car to show what he could really do."
As a Brazilian from Sao Paulo who grew up in awe of three-times F1 champion and compatriot Ayrton Senna, his compliment was significant, warm and generous. "Now he is gone and that is so sad but he is in a good place and looking at us and I think and I hope he is happy there."
BIANCHI'S CRASH UNACCEPTABLE
Equally, Massa had every right to his anger that, 20 years after Senna's death at Imola during the 1994 San Marino GP, Bianchi had died in unacceptable circumstances when his car aquaplaned into and under a recovery tractor.
Massa told reporters: "If you go back to what happened to Jules many things changed after that, unfortunately we need to see that type of accident to understand what's happened."
"I really agree that F1 has changed a lot, especially after Ayrton Senna's accident, and I believe cars are very safe now. We always need to keep working to improve safety - not just the cars but also the tracks and everything is very safe now.
"So what happened in Japan - it was a different situation. What's happened in Japan was something that we cannot, I cannot, accept because the crash was with a tractor."
Clearly emotional, Massa continued and said: "I am sure after that accident so many things changed and people understand that what happened there is something that's not supposed to happen...
"JULES IS NOT HERE ANYMORE"
The Brazilian said: "So we had some different rules after that, for the virtual safety car, for more safety cars, especially if the car goes out of the track. Unfortunately we need that type of accident to change something, but I think the most important thing is not to see that again.
"Unfortunately, Jules is not here any more...
"So many things changed in the past because of accidents, unfortunately. It's important that we don't see that anymore."
Massa has every right to his opinion.
In 2009, he survived a life-threatening head injury during qualifying at the Hungaroring but came back, after a long recovery, to extend his career with Ferrari and, now, Williams.
Asked on Thursday (July 23) if he would stay for a third season with Williams, the former Ferrari driver said: "I hope so! Nothing has changed. I don't see why not. I really enjoy working with the team.
"The team is really respecting me 100% and I think I am enjoying the way I work with them."
Stay with Wheels24 for the 2015 Formula 1 series.