The Formula 1 community is in mourning following the passing of 25-year old Jules Bianchi on Friday night 17 July 2015. Bianchi had been hospitalised since suffering head trauma during the Japanese Grand Prix on 5 October 2014 and never regained consciousness after the crash..
In a sport that has made enormous developments in driver safety over the past few decades, it comes as a real shock that a driver can die as a result of injuries sustained in a crash during a Grand Prix. Bianchi’s death is a reminder of the inherent dangers in motorsport and the constant need to improve safety wherever possible.
Bianchi’s death marks the second tragedy to befall the Marussia F1 team, after the death of Maria de Villota in October 2013. De Villota was involved in a testing crash in July 2012, as a result of which she lost her right eye. Although she was released from hospital and resumed her public life, on 11 October 2013 De Villota suffered a cardiac arrest, which may have been related to her injuries of a year before. She was dead at just 33-years old.
It’s been 21 years since a driver died as a result of a crash on a Grand Prix weekend. The last driver to do so before Bianchi was, of course, Ayrton Senna. I remember watching Senna’s crash live on television and I remember vividly watching the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix and fearing a similar fate for Bianchi. I’m sure the loss I feel in the wake of Bianchi’s death is but a shadow of the anguish his family is going through. My thoughts are with them at this very difficult time.
Jules Bianchi was a phenomenal talent. He won races in Formula 2, Formula 3, Gp2 and Formula Renault 3.5 before progressing to Formula 1, where he immediately impressed. He scored the first ever points (and only points to-date) for the Marussia F1 team when he finished 9th at the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix.
As a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, Bianchi was frequently speculated to be in the running for a Ferrari Formula 1 drive, which could well have happened if not for his fatal injury. Bianchi was Ferrari’s test and reserve driver in 2011 and fulfilled the same role for Force India in 2012 before making his F1 race debut in 2013 for Marussia.
Bianchi was considered by many to be a future race winner and potential world champion. In that respect, and in terms of his clear skill behind the wheel of a racing car, comparisons can be drawn with the late Gilles Villeneuve, who is considered one of the great talents of Formula 1 but died without a championship to his name.
Early on Saturday morning 18 July 2015, the Bianchi family released the following statement:
It is with deep sadness that the parents of Jules Bianchi, Philippe and Christine, his brother Tom and sister Mélanie, wish to make it known that Jules passed away last night at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (CHU) in Nice, (France) where he was admitted following the accident of 5th October 2014 at Suzuka Circuit during the Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix.
“Jules fought right to the very end, as he always did, but today his battle came to an end,” said the Bianchi family. “The pain we feel is immense and indescribable. We wish to thank the medical staff at Nice’s CHU who looked after him with love and dedication. We also thank the staff of the General Medical Center in the Mie Prefecture (Japan) who looked after Jules immediately after the accident, as well as all the other doctors who have been involved with his care over the past months.
“Furthermore, we thank Jules’ colleagues, friends, fans and everyone who has demonstrated their affection for him over these past months, which gave us great strength and helped us deal with such difficult times. Listening to and reading the many messages made us realise just how much Jules had touched the hearts and minds of so many people all over the world.
“We would like to ask that our privacy is respected during this difficult time, while we try to come to terms with the loss of Jules.”
Spanish former Formula 1 test driver Maria de Villota has been found dead in a hotel room in Spain. She was 33 years old.
De Villota was the daughter of former Formula 1 driver Emilio de Villota and was targeting a race seat in F1 when she suffered a massive accident in July 2012. At the time, de Villota was conducting a straight-line test for Marussia at Duxford Aerodrome in the United Kingdom. She crashed into a stationary truck and sustained serious head injuries which resulted in the loss of her right eye.
In the year and three months since her accident, de Villota had been recuperating and was interested in promoting safety in motorsport.
Maria de Villota was scheduled to appear in Seville in the next few days for the purpose of promoting her autobiography, Life Is a Gift.
The cause of her death has not yet been revealed.
De Villota’s family has released the following statement on social media today: “Dear friends: Maria has left us. She had to go to heaven like all the angels. We thank God for the extra year and a half he left her with us.”
Marussia F1 team have released the following update on their injured test driver Maria De Villota:
It is now eight days since Maria De Villota’s accident at Duxford Airfield in her debut test for the Team.
Despite severe injuries, Maria’s recovery during that time has been remarkable.
Following two successful surgical procedures in the days following the accident, last Saturday the medical team at Addenbrooke’s Hospital began to gradually reduce the level of Maria’s sedation. By Sunday morning, Maria was awake and able to speak to her family, which provided a very important – albeit early – indication that there were positive signs for Maria’s recovery.
Since that time, Maria has been making small but significant steps. She was moved out of the Neurological Critical Care Unit on Monday and is no longer receiving sedation. Her family remain by her side and she is communicating freely with them and the medical team. Medical assessments are ongoing to monitor Maria’s improving condition.
We have provided this update with the consent and support of the De Villota family who, whilst keen to ensure Maria’s care remains the priority, are understanding and appreciative of the concern for her wellbeing.
Marussia F1 team released the following statement yesterday regarding the condition of injured test driver Maria De Villota:
Earlier today, Maria underwent further surgery at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. This was a planned procedure that would depend upon the continued stability of Maria’s head injuries, and this morning the medical team were sufficiently happy with her progress to allow the operation to go ahead.
The surgeons successfully completed the next phase of surgery required to address Maria’s facial injuries. After the lengthy initial procedure, which commenced on Tuesday and concluded on Wednesday, today’s secondary operation took significantly less time.
Since the operation today, Maria’s condition in relation to the head trauma she received has further improved, to the extent that she is now “serious but stable”.
Whilst Maria remains acutely ill, this confirms that she has been responding well to the treatment she has received since her accident. Coupled with the significant progress that has been made with regard to her facial injuries, we feel sufficiently comfortable to proceed with a further update.
On a more personal note, we have taken a great deal of encouragement from today’s developments and the rather more positive signs for Maria’s family.
Marussia F1 team have released the following statement on behalf of the De Villota family:
Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge
5 July 2012, 20.00hrs
“Maria remains in a critical but stable condition here at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. While there is no further news than that at present, we have at least been able to take encouragement from the fact that Maria has remained stable throughout since the accident, particularly during the first night following such a lengthy surgical procedure as she experienced yesterday.
We, the family, are supporting each other here at Maria’s side and we take great comfort from the remarkable medical care she has been receiving. We remain positive and this is due, in no small part, to the overwhelming expression of love and support for Maria from every corner of the world. We would also wish to thank everyone at the Marussia F1 Team for all the care and attention they have shown us over the past few days.
With our sincere gratitude.”
Isabel De Villota
Representative of the De Villota Family & Maria’s Sister