RIDING FOR JULES: Williams' driver Felipe Massa said the horrific crash of Jules Bianchi at the Japanese GP on Oct 5 was the 'worst race of his life'. Image: AFP / Dimitar Dilkoff
SOCHI, Russia - Felipe Massa on Thursday described the previous weekend's tragic Japanese GP, in which Jules Bianchi suffered life-threatening injuries, as "the worst race of my life".
As he and other drivers reacted to the crash, in which Frenchman Bianchi of Marussia collided with a recovery vehicle, Brazilian Massa - who survived a severe head injury in a crash in Hungary in 2009 - revealed his emotions.
Speaking at an official pre-event news conference ahead of the first Russian GP, the now Williams driver said he wanted to race "and do his best for him (Bianchi), and for his family".
Massa (33), a veteran of 206 grands prix, said: "For me, it was the worst race of my life... a really bad race, worse than the race of my accident that I can't remember. The worst of my life.
"It is so difficult to be every day thinking about him, all the time, of Jules. It was a very difficult weekend for all of us. Maybe Friday, we are working again and will have something to think about and - you can put that inside your brain."
Like former Ferrari team mate Fernando Alonso, Massa made clear he wanted to support Bianchi by racing for him - a feeling shared by the drivers and teams as they assembled in the sunny Sochi paddock where Bianchi's friend and compatriot Jean-Eric Vergne was distributing stickers declaring 'Tous Avec Jules' ('All with Jules').
Alonso said: "I have huge respect for our work, but when there are big accidents of this type.... It will be a tough weekend and right now, we are here and it is emotionally very difficult.
"I am ready to race, and to race for him, and to be as professional as we can be and, at this moment, our minds are with him."
Bianchi remained in a 'critical but stable' condition in hospital in Japan following surgery to treat severe head injuries.
A Ferrari academy graduate, Bianchi was close to the team and well known by all the competing F1 drivers, but particularly all at the Ferrari team.
'A GREY CLOUD'
Adrian Sutil, who witnessed Bianchi's collision, having crashed at the same place in his Sauber car a few minutes earlier, said: "It is hard to say in words and a shocking moment for everyone, and for myself.
"We just have to pray now - and to hope, that is all we can do... Here in Russia, there is a grey cloud over us. We will try to be professional enough to focus on a race weekend again, but it still affects everyone."
Russian rookie Daniil Kvyat, 20, who will switch from Toro Rosso to Red Bull in 2015, said his pride in taking part in his home event was overshadowed: "I really wish for him to recover - it is the only thing that matters. I am thinking of him very often."
Jenson Button (34), a veteran of 262 races, said: "It is a horrible feeling to know what one of your fellow-drivers went through and is going through - most important is that we wish him well and our thoughts are with him."
'EXTREMELY DIFFICULT RACE'
Defending four-times champion Sebastian Vettel, who has announced he will leave Red Bull in 2015, summed up his feelings, saying: "I think, first of all, it was an extremely difficult race for all of us.
"It was the most difficult to digest, so far... I think the difficult conditions, giving a very small margin for error, and for Jules, it was too small - and the circumstances led to a catastrophe."Stay with Wheels24 for the 2014 Russian GP this weekend.