Formula One drivers on Thursday paid tribute to Jules Bianchi, who succumbed last week to injuries sustained in October’s Japanese Grand Prix, but said their commitment behind the wheel would not change following the Frenchman’s tragic death Bianchi suffered severe head injuries when his Marussia slid off the track in treacherous conditions and ploughed into a recovery tractor retrieving Adrian Sutil’s stricken Sauber during last year’s race at Japan’s Suzuka circuit.
He had been in a coma ever since the accident and passed away last Friday. He was 25. A popular and well-liked driver, Bianchi was laid to rest on Tuesday at a funeral attended by several current and past Formula One drivers.
Speaking to journalists on Thursday for the first time since his death, they paid moving tributes to their competitor in the build up to the Hungarian Grand Prix.
“For me he was a fantastic boy, very nice, very humble and an amazing driver,” said Felipe Massa, who met Bianchi – managed by the same manager as him -- when the Frenchman was still a teenager working his way up through the karting ranks.
“I’m sure he is in a good place, racing, enjoying and definitely looking here to all of us, from whatever place he is, I don’t know, but I think he was an amazing boy and a fantastic driver that I really hope the best for his family as well.”
Force India’s Sergio Perez, who like Bianchi was a member of Ferrari’s young driver programme, agreed with Massa and said Bianchi’s death had come as a shock.
“He was just a very, very special driver. It’s very sad, you know. As drivers we share many moments. We see each other every 15 days or so during the whole year... and not to see him ever again, it really shocks you,” Perez said.
Bianchi’s death makes him the first driver to die from injuries sustained over a Grand Prix weekend since Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna were killed at the San Marino Grand prix in 1994.
Until now, none of the current generation of drivers had ever witnessed a competitor being killed behind the wheel at a Grand Prix and said Bianchi’s accident and death had perhaps woken the sport up to the danger that still exists.
“It opens your eyes and tells us what we’re doing, the sport we’re doing, there’s still some risk involved,” Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg said.
“I think you just have to be aware of that and make your own choices at times in the car, how much risk you’re willing to take, and be comfortable with it.”
However, the drivers all said that their approach to racing wouldn’t change and that all thought of the dangers of their chosen sport would be pushed aside once they donned their helmets and slipped into the cockpit of their cars.
“I don’t think it changes,” Massa, no stranger to the risks of the sport having survived a near-fatal accident himself in qualifying for the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, said.
“When you close your visor, you want the best, you want to finish in front, and you want to do the best you can and manoeuvre overtaking, the way you drive, your thinking, I don’t think it will change.”
Jenson Button, a director of the Grand Prix Drivers Association, a body formed by drivers with the main aim of improving safety said racing flat out would be the best way to honour Bianchi’s memory.
“Even though Jules was in a critical condition for so long it’s still a massive shock when you actually hear the news that he’s passed away,” Button said.
“It doesn’t stop you from jumping in the car the next day, it’s what we do, it’s the way the sport is. “We are lucky to do what we do but it is a crazy sport racing cars at 340 kilometers an hour. “I’m sure Jules would love to watch us race flat out this weekend and give it our all for him and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
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Updated Date: Jul 25, 2015 12:38:34 IST