Former Formula One driver Jean Alesi has joined the growing number of motorsport figures who have paid tribute to Jules Bianchi after the 25-year-old passed away overnight.
Alesi, who knew Bianchi very well thanks to his role as Team Captain for the French Motorsport Federation, thinks there were strong chances that the Nice-born racer would have eventually succeeded him as the next Frenchman to race for Ferrari.
“Jules was France’s up-an-coming talent in motor racing,” Alesi told French radio RTL. “He was better than the [Marussia] he drove and achieved an exploit at Monaco by securing these two points that have helped the team survive. He was a great champion.”
“Somehow, he lived his dream of driving for Ferrari by testing several times with them as the team’s official reserve. He was waiting for his breakthrough and I’m sure his time would have come had things gone differently.”
Bianchi has become the first driver to die from injuries sustained in an F1 accident since Ayrton Senna in 1994. Alesi, who raced at the top echelon from 1989 to 2001, admits he expected the Brazilian legend to remain the last casualty in the sport.
“I belong to an older generation of drivers who witnessed Senna’s crash at first hand and we could not imagine that, with all the improvements made in terms of circuit and car safety standards, such a tragedy could happen nowadays.”
French Formula 1 driver Jules Bianchi, 25, has died from severe head injuries sustained in a crash nine months ago at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.
Jules Bianchi died at the age of 25 on Friday night as a result of head injuries sustained at last October’s Japanese Grand Prix.
He “fought right to the very end”, his family said in a statement, before his battle came to an end in hospital in Nice.
Here, Sport360 looks at some of the tributes paid to the 25-year-old Frenchman on Twitter.
Last night we lost a truly great guy and a real fighter #RIPJules my sincerest Condolences to his family and friends.
— Jenson Button (@JensonButton) July 18, 2015
I’ll never forget you and the good times we had. Going to miss you bro pic.twitter.com/nHxnuIdCwN
— Daniel Ricciardo (@danielricciardo) July 18, 2015
— Romain Grosjean (@RGrosjean) July 18, 2015
Woke up to these very sad news.. RIP Jules. You will be never forgotten. My thoughts are with the family pic.twitter.com/79yv2DrDFa
— Valtteri Bottas (@ValtteriBottas) July 18, 2015
No words can describe what his family & the sport have lost. All I can say it was a pleasure knowing & racing you. x pic.twitter.com/NVcfbV9qdR
— M A X Chilton (@maxchilton) July 18, 2015
— Mark Blundell (@markblundellf1) July 18, 2015
All my thoughts to the family of Jules Bianchi,R.I.P.
— Dani Pedrosa (@26_DaniPedrosa) July 18, 2015
My strong thoughts go to Jules Bianchi’s family! Hope the lessons we learned will stop more tragedies like these from happening! RIP
— Bruno Senna (@BSenna) July 18, 2015
— Mario Andretti (@MarioAndretti) July 18, 2015
Rest in peace Jules Bianchi. This sport that we love can be very cruel.
— Dario Franchitti (@dariofranchitti) July 18, 2015
— Allan McNish (@allanmcnish) July 18, 2015
Just heard that Jules Bianchi passed away. Thoughts and prayers for his family and friends. #RIP
— Juan Pablo Montoya (@jpmontoya) July 18, 2015
R.I.P Jules #17 We never forget you!
— KAMUI KOBAYASHI (@kamui_kobayashi) July 18, 2015
— Andre Lotterer (@Andre_Lotterer) July 18, 2015
So sad to hear Jules Bianchi passed away. RIP Jules.
— Katherine Legge (@katherinelegge) July 18, 2015
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) July 18, 2015
Today we have lost an amazing talent and person… Words can’t describe our feelings right now. We will all miss you Jules.. #RIPJules
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) July 18, 2015
Talented and a gentleman, will remain in our hearts..RIP Jules Bianchi.
— Johnny herbert (@johnnyherbertf1) July 18, 2015
— Alan Jones MBE ASM (@AlanJonesMBEASM) July 18, 2015
What terrible news this morning. Our deepest condolences to Jules’ family and friends. Rest in peace Jules, you will be greatly missed!
— Sauber F1 Team (@SauberF1Team) July 18, 2015
— Stoffel Vandoorne (@svandoorne) July 18, 2015