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Triumph and tragedy in Bianchi history

2014-10-09 08:07


WAITING NOT OVER FOR FAMILY: Marussia driver Jules Bianchi's parents Philippe and Christine and his friend Lorenz Leclerc, at the Mie General Medical Centre in Yokkaichi, Japan, on October 9, 2014. Image: AFP / Toru Yamanaka

   • Bianchi family has racing heritage

  • Death by racing has struck
  • Jules: A future champion?

PARIS, France - Young Frenchman Jules Bianchi, lying critically injured in a hospital in Yokkaichi, Japan, after his horror crash in the Suzuka F1 GP, comes from a family steeped in motorsport tradition but also scarred by tragedy.

Death by motorsport has stuck the family in the past.

The 25-year-old from Nice was knocked unconscious in a high-speed crash which took his Marussia race car underr a heavy recovery vehicle during rain-soaked conditions at the Suzuka circuit.


He had been tipped by many as the next great French champion. Now he is fighting for life with severe brain damage but experts say the chances of recover at slim.

Bianchi made his F1 debut in 2013 with Marussia but was before that a test driver for Ferrari and Force India as he followed in the footsteps of previous racers in the Bianchi family.

He was born in the Cote d'Azur resort city of Nice in 1989 and grew up in a family that originated in Milan but left Italy in 1950 for Belgium and eventually their current home, France.

His grandfather Mauro was a renowned F3 driver, a three-times World champion in GT cars, notably with Alpine-Renault, and one of the great stars of motorsport during the 1960's.

However Jules' crash on Sunday brought back dramatic memories of the fate suffered by his great-uncle Lucien, a driver who competed in 17 F1 races, finished third at Monaco in 1968 and won the Le Mans 24-hours later that season.

A year later, aged 34 and at the wheel of an Alfa Romeo, he crashed during testing at Le Mans and died when his car caught fire.


Jules' father Philippe, now at his son's bedside with his mother Christine, was a specialist in kart racing and introduced his son to the sport. The still-young Bianchi climbed steadily through motorsport's ranks then joined the Ferrari Driver Academy in 2009 before adapting to Formula 3 and then two seasons in GP2 in which he finished third in the championship in 2010 and 2011.

In 2012 he was battling for the Formula Renault 3.5 Series championship and only lost the title in the final race of the season after a controversial collision with Dutch driver Robin Frijns.

The new and Russian F1 team Marussia recognised Bianchi's growing potential and handed him a drive for 2013 season. He out-performed team mate Max Chilton all season and his best finish was 13th in Malaysia in only his second F1 GP.

A slow start to the 2014 campaign burst into life on the streets of Monaco in May: he scored the team's first points with ninth despite driving one of the slowest cars on the grid.


The rise of Jules Bianchi was in full flight; only three days before fate intervened in Japan he declared himself 'ready' to be one of the two drivers at the Ferrari stable he knows so well from his days as a test driver.

He said at the traditional pre-race media conferences at Suzuka: "I feel ready and I've been working on that since I joined the (Ferrari) Academy in 2009.

"I've had two seasons in F1, I have good experience, and I feel ready. Alonso and Raikkonen have contracts so there is no question, but if the opportunity presents itself I think it would be good for me and I feel good."

Another possibility for him was the proposed idea of F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone to have the big teams race three cars in 2015. As first-choice driver for Marussia and test driver for Ferrari, the future looked extremely bright for Bianchi and he had all the qualities of a champion in the making.

Now he will be lucky if he ever drives again as F1 tries to come to grips with the most shocking accident since Ayrton Senna died at the wheel of his Williams-Renault in 1994 at the San Marino GP.

Stay with Wheels24 for the 2014 Sochi F1 GP weekend.
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