FOR JULES: Marussia driver Jules Bianchi's car sits ready in the team's pits as a sign of support to the seriously-injured driver in a critical condition in a Japanese hospital. Image: AFP / Yuri Kadobnov
SOCHI, Russia - Marussia will race with only one car in Sunday's Russian Formula 1 Grand Prix after withdrawing the other out of respect for their severely-injured French driver Jules Bianchi, the team said on Friday.
Bianchi remains in a critical but stable condition in a Japanese hospital after he crashed into a recovery tractor at Suzuka during last Sunday's rain-soaked Japanese GP and suffered a traumatic brain injury.
Team sporting director Graeme Lowdon, in the first public comments by team management since the Suzuka accident, thanked the F1 community for their support after 'an incredibly difficult week' for all.
'ALL WITH JULES'
Lowdown told reporters after Max Chilton had completed the day's practice in the sole Marussia: "Everybody in the team, and I know much wider than that, is with Jules (Bianchi) at this moment, and also with his family.
"Jules is an exceptional F1 driver, but he is also an exceptional human being. I don't know a single person who doesn't like him... Jules has so many friends it's really hit home hard, very hard, to a lot of people."
Along with Chilton, Marussia had provisionally entered American reserve Alexander Rossi for Sunday's race.
Lowdon said the decision to field a single car had been a difficult one to take but the team felt it was the right one in the circumstances.
"We are lying ninth in the World championship, which is a very important position for us, and we're largely in that position because of Jules," he explained.
The highly-rated 25-year-old scored struggling Marussia's first and only Formula One points to date when against the odds he finished ninth in Monaco, his home race, last May.
Lowdon, whose team is Russian registered despite being based in Britain, said: "He is a racing driver and he would want us to do the best we can, so we thought the right thing to do was to come here and take part in the event.
"As a mark of support for Jules, and a mark of respect to his mum and dad and his family, we decided to withdraw the second car."
Mechanics had assembled both on Thursday but left Bianchi's, race ready and with his name and numbers on it, sitting in the garage throughout practice.
"We found that was something we could do. It's also been useful for the people in our team because they want to give an expression of support for Jules," said Lowdon. "So I hope people understand what we've done and why we've done it.
"Even if it makes a small difference, it makes a difference in the right place."
Lowdon thanked the team's engine supplier Ferrari, for whom Bianchi was a test driver, and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone for their support.
"In these situations it's incredibly reassuring to know people care, and if I can sum up the support we've had from Bernie, it's that he cares. It has been extremely valuable and useful," he said.
Bianchi's name also remained over the team's garage and all the other drivers carried stickers declaring 'Tous Avec Jules #17' on their helmets in a gesture of support.
Bianchi's injury is the most serious suffered by a F1 driver during a race since Brazilian Felipe Massa was hit on the helmet by a bouncing spring at the 2009 Hungarian GP while racing for Ferrari.
Massa, now at Williams, suffered life-threatening head injuries and remained in a coma for several days. The sport has not had a driver fatality since Brazil's triple champion Ayrton Senna died at Imola in 1994.