Formula One has suffered its first fatality since Ayrton Senna was killed in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. Jules Bianchi was competing in the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix where during a wet race he spun and slid into a parked recovery vehicle. Bianchi suffered severe head injuries as a result of the crash and 9 months on he has finally succumbed to those injuries from which he never woke up from again.
Bianchi was just 25 years old.
Initially he was airlifted to a near by hospital near to the Suzuka race track and placed into a coma. Bianchi was then flown to a hospital in Nice in the South of France where he eventually died. A statement released by his family said:
“We thank Jules’s colleagues, friends, fans and everyone who has demonstrated their affection for him over these past months, which gave us great strength and helped us deal with such difficult times. Listening to and reading the many messages made us realise just how much Jules had touched the hearts and minds of so many people all over the world.”
An FIA led investigation into Bianchi’s crash found that he had not slowed sufficiently enough in the wet conditions to avoid losing control.
Max Chilton who was Bianchi’s team mate at Marussia expressed his condolences via twitter “Rest in peace dear Jules. We lost a great fighter today. All my thoughts are with you and your family,”
Formula One safety has improved considerably since the 1994 San Marino where both Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna were killed in separate race incidents during that fateful race weekend.
But open cockpit motor racing is inherently dangerous, the last serious casualty was Felipe Massa, who was driving for Ferrari at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Massa suffered a fractured skull after the rear suspension of the Brawn GP being driven by Rubens Barrichello became detached. The component bounced off the circuit and hit Massa on the head who was following behind at around 175mph.
Massa was lucky to survive but he faced a lengthy recovery before he returned to the sport. Bianchi was less so and as with all of these deaths in the sport it will be a lesson into improving safety further still. But no one can guarantee F1 will ever be absolutely risk free.