Jules Lucien André Bianchi was a French Formula One driver. Over the course of his short career, he raced for Marussia F1 Team, Ferrari Driver Academy, and Sahara Force India. A native of the city of Nice, Bianchi was inspired by his grandfather, who took part in GT racing during the 1960s as well as three non-championship Formula One Grands Prix in 1961. Bianchi began kart racing when he was three years old. After he turned 17, Nicolas Todt became his manager. In 2007, he participated in French Formula Renault 2.0 for the first time, representing SG Formula. Bianchi initially joined F1 as a test driver for Sahara Force India in 2012. A year later, he debuted as an F1 driver in Australia for Marussia, ending his first race at the 15th place. At the end of the season, he had not managed to score any points and finished the season at the 19th place. Despite this, Marussia retained him for the following season. In 2014, he registered both his own and his team’s first points in F1 at the Monaco Grand Prix. In October 2014, during the Japanese Grand Prix, Bianchi was involved in an accident and suffered a diffuse axonal injury. Although he was immediately operated on and was put into an induced coma, he passed away in July 2015.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on August 3, 1989, in Nice, France, Jules Bianchi was one of the three children of Philippe and Christine Bianchi. He had a brother named Tom and a sister named Mélanie.
Since he was a child, Bianchi was interested in racing. His grandfather, Mauro Bianchi, participated in GT racing during the 1960s as well as in three non-championship F1 Grands Prix in 1961, while his granduncle, Lucien, took part in 19 F1 Grands Prix (1959-1968). He was the victor at the 1968 24 Hours of Le Mans. Legendary driver Michael Schumacher was also a source of inspiration for young Bianchi.
At the age of three, he started kart racing. This was his first experience with motorsport. The fact that his father was the owner of a kart track made it easy for him to practice driving. When he turned 17, Nicolas Todt started serving as his manager.
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In 2007, Jules Bianchi decided to quit karting and joined French Formula Renault 2.0 to race for the SG Formula. He was highly successful during his tenure there, registering five wins and becoming a champion. He also took part in the Formula Renault Eurocup and secured one pole position for himself. He also registered one fastest lap in three races.
In late 2007, he started racing for ART Grand Prix to compete in the Formula 3 Euro Series. In 2008, he became the winner of the Masters of Formula 3 at Zolder, eventually ending the season at the 3rd place. Bianchi scored nine wins in 2009 to claim the title.
He suffered one of the first accidents of his career in July 2010 during the main series of the GP2 season in Hungary. While the doctors gave a pessimistic diagnosis during the initial assessment of his injury, he ultimately made a complete recovery and participated in the next round of the championship.
In 2011, he partnered up with Esteban Gutiérrez, the 2010 GP3 Series champion, and went on to have a moderately successful season. In the Asia series opener in Abu Dhabi, Bianchi scored his first victory in GP2. This was his first victory since 2009. He eventually finished the main season at the third place.
In 2012, he chose to leave F2 for Formula Renault 3.5 Series. He had appeared in the competition once before, in 2009. Bianchi joined Tech 1 Racing team and started competing alongside Kevin Korjus. Later, Daniel Abt replaced Korjus as his partner. In the final round of the title race, he was the runner-up after Robin Frijns.
Formula One Racing
In August 2009, BBC and various other news outlets reported that Bianchi had been picked for the second Ferrari Formula One seat, which was held by Luca Badoer while Felipe Massa was absent. He was one of the young drivers tested for Ferrari at Circuito de Jerez in December 2009 and was chosen as the first recruit of the Ferrari Driver Academy.
During the 2011 season, he was Ferrari’s test and reserve driver. He simultaneously competed in the GP2 while doing his stint for Ferrari. When the 2012 season started, Ferrari leased him to Sahara Force India. He served as a test and reserve driver for the outfit in nine Friday free practice sessions over the course of the year.
In March 2013, Marussia revealed that Bianchi was to substitute Luiz Razia as one of their drivers in the forthcoming Formula One season. He finished the Australian Grand Prix qualifiers in the 19th place, earning a spot in the finals.
In his debut race, he came 15th. He was the best Marussia driver as of Hungarian Grand Prix in 2013. However, during the Japanese Grand Prix, he, along with Charles Pic of Caterham, was handed a ten-place grid penalty for getting three reprimands over the season. In the race, he had to withdraw following a collision with Giedo van der Garde.
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In October 2013, Marussia announced that they were retaining Bianchi for the 2014 season. Initially, he encountered some struggles, especially in Australia, where he could not get classified. Eventually, he led his team to their first World Championship points by finishing ninth at the Monaco Grand Prix.
A few days prior to his fatal accident, Bianchi made himself available for the Scuderia Ferrari race seat amidst the reports that Fernando Alonso was leaving the team.
Family & Personal Life
Bianchi and his girlfriend, Camille Marchetti, who is also French, had been dating for a considerable period. Some later reports also stated that he had a German girlfriend named Gina, who had relocated to Nice.
Accident & Death
Despite the intermittent heavy rainfall due to Typhoon Phanfone and in fading daylight, the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix took place on 5 October as scheduled. Bianchi was completing his 43rd lap when his car went out of control and slammed against the rear of a tractor crane that was attempting to remove Adrian Sutil's Sauber.
Sutil had been in an accident earlier and had ended the race in the same place. The impact between Bianchi’s car and the crane was such that the latter shook and dropped the Sauber. The race was subsequently halted and Lewis Hamilton was announced the winner.
When Bianchi was pulled out of the wreckage, he was reportedly unconscious. The initial treatment was performed at the crash site before he was moved to the circuit’s medical centre. A helicopter could not be arranged to take him to the hospital due to the terrible weather. As a result, he was moved in an ambulance under police escort.
According to reports, Bianchi was immediately operated on to lessen the severe bruising to his head. The FIA later announced that Bianchi had sustained a “severe head injury” in the crash and that he would be kept in the Intensive Care Unit after the surgery was done.
Bianchi’s condition was critical but stable following his operation, and he needed a medical ventilator. In November 2014, he was brought out of his induced coma and was subsequently moved to the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Nice (CHU) in France. In July 2015, his father admitted that he had become “less optimistic” as there was no significant improvement.
On July 17, 2015, Bianchi passed away at the age of 25. He was the first Formula One driver since Ayrton Senna to die due to injuries sustained during racing. In December 2015, his father launched a Monaco-based foundation which would help young drivers throughout their careers.