We’re currently in an age of Formula 1 where driver safety has never been better. The era of great risk to drivers is, by and large, gone. There is inevitably a degree of danger though, as one would expect from getting behind the wheel of an open-cockpit vehicle and racing it at high speeds in various conditions, alongside other people doing the same.
The drivers know of this risk and accept it, and for their bravery I applaud them. It is impossible to completely remove that danger.
Nevertheless, given Formula 1’s vastly improved safety record, I don’t think anyone really expects serious accidents to happen. Yes, there have been injuries and people have walked away from horrific accidents that might have had fatal consequences twenty years ago, but the idea that someone might lose their life? That simply doesn’t happen anymore.
Until, sadly, today.
As a consequence of the severe head injuries he sustained during last year’s Japanese Grand Prix, Jules Bianchi, considered by many to be a rising star in Formula 1, has passed away.
In retrospect, given the nature of Bianchi’s injuries, it was always unlikely that he would make a full recovery, and as time went on, the likelihood of any sort of recovery sadly faded. His family maintained their (and his) dignity during a very difficult past nine months, and I hope they are left to grieve in peace.
I didn’t know much about Bianchi, until he arrived in F1 in 2013. He was a product of Ferrari’s young driver program (having proven himself in feeder series) and Ferrari saw potential in him. He was a reserve and test driver for both Ferrari and Force India, before joining Marussia in 2013. Bianchi would consistently outperform his teammates during his two competitive years in F1.
Marussia were never going to challenge consistently for points, let alone podiums, but at the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix, Bianchi took his chances, forcing himself up the field to secure his (and the team’s) best finish in Formula 1 with 9th place and 2 world championship points. It was a remarkable and fantastic moment for Bianchi and Marussia alike.
I’m not going to discuss the accident that ultimately cost Bianchi his life. Suffice to say, it was a dark moment for Formula 1. I would rather remember Bianchi as the man who worked his way into Formula 1 on merit, who was immensely likeable, and who defied the odds to get himself and his team points when no one expected him to.
Rest in Peace Jules.