F1 pays emotional tribute to Bianchi

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Drivers link to pay their respects to Bianchi.

They wiped away their tears, pulled down their visors and went racing again. Formula One’s leading drivers paid a final formal tribute to their colleague Jules Bianchi during a minute’s silence ahead of Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix, the final race before the mid-season break.

Standing in a closed circle, arms across backs and shoulders to include each man and Bianchi’s family, they laid their own helmets on the ground. When Bianchi’s father Philippe and mother Christine, his brother and sister, and his manager Nicolas Todt, arrived, the group took them in, heads bowed. A ring of linked arms, joined in love and grief.

The helmet of Jules Bianchi, who died on July 17 from injuries sustained when he crashed into a recovery vehicle in torrential rain at last October’s Japanese Grand Prix, was laid alongside them. His racing number 17, the sport’s ruling body the International Motoring Federation (FIA) said this week, was laid to rest too.

The Marussia team, for which Bianchi had scored such a valuable points finish at last year’s Monaco Grand Prix, stood as a group in tribute. “We miss you Jules,” their banner declared.

The silence was observed with a grim and emotional stillness before a musical note signalled a singing of the Hungarian anthem. As tears ran, a helicopter hovered overhead and some of the drivers struggled with their emotions. And then, they were leaning in to collect their helmets and stride away towards the starting grid.

Bianchi’s parents and family had arrived at the Hungaroring racing circuit on Sunday morning — his father and brother Tom wearing white polo shirts embroidered in red with “JB#17” –to attend the ceremony apparently flown there on Formula One ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone’s private jet.

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He was the first F1 driver to die as a result of a racing accident since three-time champion Brazilian Ayrton Senna at the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola in 1994. Bianchi was laid to rest in Nice on Tuesday and a minute’s silence is planned to take place 15 minutes before Sunday’s 70-lap race.

All the teams and their drivers have carried stickers and tributes on their cars and helmets carrying messages including ‘Ciao Jules’ and #JB17 this weekend. His Marussia team chief Graeme Lowdon said Friday Bianchi was universally liked and his death had “touched an awful lot of people.”

He added the Bianchi family had behaved in “an incredible way in a situation that I really cannot comprehend.”

In another tribute, Ferrari — whom many thought would be Bianchi’s next port of call — said: “People like him never really leave us. Jules was a driver with a kind smile, a guy who knew how to listen, not just talk about himself and he’s still around.

“For example, he lives on in the memory of Sebastian Vettel, who recalls an occasion when they met at Suzuka, the circuit where the tragedy would unfold: ‘We were both running the track and you know how many climbs there are there. He was going like the wind, he was really in good shape.’

“In fact, it was his physical strength that allowed him to fight the impossible with all his remaining strength. Thus he was able to make the journey from Japan to his native France, so that at least his family could be close to him.

“‘Jules nei nostri cuori’ (Jules in our hearts) was the phrase we chose for him and for us to put on the Ferrari bodywork. Now we need speak no more, only remember.”

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Vettel encouraged by Ferrari overcoming qualification struggle.

Sebastian Vettel says the progress shown by Ferrari in practice bodes well for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The four-time world champion called on Ferrari to “clean up” in a number of areas ahead of Saturday’s running after struggling on Friday, and he duly qualified third on the grid. Having bounced back strongly, Vettel praised Ferrari for ensuring it got the best possible result having come under threat from Red Bull.

“It’s true we had a difficult day with something stopping us, slowing us down and it was difficult to get a feel for the car,” Vettel said. “So for today I’m glad that we found a direction. We took it a little bit easier, trying to build it up in FP3 which worked, then throughout qualifying I think the car kept coming to us, kept improving. So I think third is the maximum we could do today so we can be very, very happy, especially with the rough start to the weekend.”

While wanting to give Mercedes a hard time in the race, Vettel is wary of the threat posed by the likes of Williams and Red Bull.

“Who knows on this track, usually there’s a lot of things happening on Sunday so maybe we can do something against [Mercedes] but I expect a hard race with the people behind, the two Williams and the Red Bulls in particular.

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“It’s a great race and a definitely want to win it – hopefully tomorrow– we’ll see with a bit of luck. Obviously in normal conditions it’s difficult to beat [Mercedes].

“We started off on a much better foot this morning and obviously were able to carry that into qualifying. We knew it will be tight, especially with Red Bulls as they showed very, very strong pace yesterday but we managed to stay ahead – so that’s good for today but for tomorrow obviously there’s a big job to be done." 

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F1i 26/07/2015
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Ricciardo fancies his team's chances in this weekend's Grand Prix.

Daniel Ricciardo says Red Bull’s updates “have come to life” during the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend.

Having looked very competitive over a long run on Friday, Ricciardo was quick in qualifying and lost out to Sebastian Vettel by just 0.035s in the fight for third place. While Ricciardo admits the track characteristics suit Red Bull more, he also says the car is performing better itself.

“The circuit here helps us,” Ricciardo said. “I really feel the updates have come to life a bit more here, using maximum downforce. This circuit is a strength of ours but I do feel after yesterday morning when we left the garage the car felt more together and I think I had more confidence in it. I was able to lean on I more, feel it over the bumps, so it is showing signs of progress.”

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And Ricciardo is confident Red Bull has the ability to fight Ferrari in race trim despite having yet to score a podium so far this season.

“I think Ferrari we can challenge. I was aware I got fourth in qualifying [in 2014] and then won. I think Ferrari can be a genuine challenge tomorrow. Even if they are a bit quicker, we have a new set options if it is a two-stop race and that might just put us back in the fight. We have a few things that can work to our advantage.”

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