*image credit: Jules Bianchi Official Facebook page
Jules Bianchi was laid to rest yesterday. The young French Formula 1 star succumbed to injuries from a crash at the Japanese Grand Prix nine months ago. The motorsport world mourned the loss of a bright talent who many felt had it in him to be a World Champion one day.
Bianchi becomes the first Formula one driver to die while racing in F1 since Ayrton Senna in 1994. It’s a harsh reminder that racing is dangerous and that we must continue to always strive to improve safety on the track, not just for the people piloting the cars, but the mechanics, marshals and spectators too.
I was in the studio at Fox Sports when it happened and knew immediately when we saw his Marussia next to the tractor that had come out to clear Sutil’s Sauber that it was very serious.
You would think the big crashes that see a car spreading parts of it all over the track like Lego pieces are the scary ones. But it’s the ones that can look innocuous that are the ones we look out for. The ones that result in a sudden deceleration as Bianchi’s did nine months ago.
Formula 1 chassis’ are very strong these days, and will survive just about anything: they’re all about trying to slow down the decelerations so that the driver within is not faced with anything life threatening.
Bianchi’s crash was a freak accident and it’s led to stronger rules on slowing down for yellow flags, especially when a vehicle is on track. So, I am confident that we won’t see this sort of accident again.
Nonetheless, the sport has lost a popular and respected figure, and the loss of Jules will be felt at this weekend’s Grand Prix in Hungry. Drivers will not be able to help thinking about the ex-Marrusia driver, and whether that could be them one day.
However, race car drivers are a special breed, and I’m positive that once that crash helmet goes on, their focus will be straight away on doing what they do best: driving flat out at every single corner.
Motor racing will always have an element of danger and there will be some questioning of whether Formula 1 is too dangerous a sport to continue on in the same way. In my mind, I believe the FIA have got it right and have made big strides over the last twenty years. It’s so much safer and there is no area that hasn’t been looked at.
I’ll say that perhaps the one last area that needs to be looked at are the open cock pits, because with an exposed helmet, there is always a chance for a freak accident like the one that almost cost Felipe Massa’s life back in 2009.
Jules will be dearly missed by all who knew him, and this weekend’s race is going to a painful one for many.