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.
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 26, 2015
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.
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.
— Ben P (@MiniP16) July 26, 2015
“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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