Jules Bianchi Dies At 25, Becomes First F1 Fatality Since Ayrton Senna
Saturday was a sad day for motorsport, as the morning brought news of Formula One driver Jules Bianchi having passed away after nine months in a coma. As some of you may recall, Bianchi sustained serious head injuries after he crashed into a tractor that was removing another car that had smashed into a barrier at the Japanese Grand Prix in October 2014.
The crash occurred during lap 44 of the race, only minutes after Sauber driver Adrian Sutil went off the track in the Dunlop curve. Bianchi lost control of his car on a very wet Suzuka circuit and collided with the tractor that was towing Sutil’s car away. The Marussia car basically ran underneath the tractor, causing the Frenchman severe head injuries. After nine months in a coma in a hospital in Nice, France, Bianchi died just shy of turning 26 years old next month.
The news is that much more saddening as Bianchi was a promising young driver who often pushed his backmarker car to surprising results. He scored Marussia’s only season points to date at the Monaco Grand Prix and was Ferrari’s pick to drive a third car in the event that F1 allowed three-car teams. Moreover, the Suzuka crash could have been avoided. And lastly, this sad event marks the first F1 fatality from injuries sustained during a Grand Prix event since Ayrton Senna’s death in 1994.
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Why it matters
With so many new safety features implemented over the last two decades and no grand prix fatalities until Bianchi, it’s safe to assume that the FIA has made Formula One a much safer sport. Unfortunately, Bianchi’s awful crash and subsequent death are here to confirm that F1 is still very dangerous.
Let’s be honest here, no safety feature could’ve prevented this crash. It was downright amazing that Bianchi wasn’t killed on impact, but it doesn’t really matter now. Nothing will bring the Frenchman back, but hopefully the FIA and all race organizers have learned a valuable lesson from the Suzuka crash. No heavy machinery should be near the track unless there’s a safety car in front of the pack, especially on a wet circuit and on a curve that has already seen a crash. There’s more than one option here actually, but the important thing is that Bianchi’s death isn’t in vain.
Bianchi’s Formula One Career
Bianchi’s first contact with Formula One came in 2009, when he tested for Ferrari at the young drivers test at Circuito de Jerez. He was only 20 years old. He became the first F1 recruit of the Ferrari Driver Academy and was confirmed as the team’s test and reserve driver for the 2011 season. In 2012, Ferrari loaned him to Force India, for which he drove in nine free practice sessions as the team’s test and reserve driver.
The Frenchman made his debut as a race driver for Marussia in 2013. Though Marussia had the slowest cars that season, Bianchi finished 15th on his debut and frequently outpaced teammate Max Chilton. Marussia confirmed Bianchi for 2014, which would become his best season in the sport, scoring his and Marussia’s first championship points by finishing ninth at the Monaco Grand Prix. Though he failed to score more points before his crash at Suzuka, Bianchi was once again quicker than Chilton, which established his status as the first driver of the team.