Drivers try to refocus post Bianchi funeral

Source:AFP Published: 2015-7-24 5:03:02

Formula One goes on after young star passes away

Marussia's French driver Jules Bianchi walks across the paddock during practice ahead of the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix on May 22, 2014 in Monte Carlo, Monaco. Photo: CFP

Two days after attending the funeral of their colleague Jules Bianchi, Formula One's leading drivers gathered again on Thursday to begin preparations for this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix, the 10th race of a season dominated by Mercedes and their dueling duo of defending champion Lewis Hamilton and teammate Nico Rosberg.

Following emotional scenes in Nice, where Frenchman Bianchi was laid to rest after his death last Friday from injuries suffered in a collision with a recovery vehicle at last year's Japanese Grand Prix, the mood in the paddock at the Hungaroring circuit, north of Hungary's capital city, is likely to be more subdued than usual on the eve of Formula One's mid-season summer break.

Both Briton Hamilton and German Rosberg, as well as Rosberg's compatriot four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, were among many well-known Formula One personalities who attended Bianchi's funeral, an occasion that marked the first death of an Formula One driver as a result of a racing accident since Brazilian Ayrton Senna in 1994. Bianchi was tipped to become a Ferrari driver and enjoy an outstanding career.

Tough road ahead

Hamilton, who leads Rosberg by 17 points in this year's title race, is in pursuit of his third title, but made clear this week he will have much more on his mind as he seeks to extend that advantage on a sun-baked, tight and demanding track where he has traditionally shone in past seasons.

"Saying goodbye to Jules was ­incredibly hard for everyone," he said.

"For myself, I wished I had known him better. But from what I knew of him, he was a kind heart with a great spirit and a bright future.

"Now our sport embarks on a tough road ahead," he added, in quotes attributed to him in a news release by Mercedes.

"We have made great progress for safety thus far and I know that the FIA [International ­Automobile Federation] will continue to make steps forward to improve even further."

Since Bianchi, 25, lost control of his car in ­torrential rain at the Suzuka circuit and crashed in October, the sport has reviewed many of its safety procedures.

Most notably with the introduction of a "­virtual" safety car scenario to try and avoid any ­repeat. The ruling body, the International ­Motoring Federation has also retired number 17, ­Bianchi's racing number.

Hamilton added, "I will carry Jules with me in my prayers and thoughts, not only in this race, but for the rest of my driving days. I know he'd want us to race hard, as he did, and so I will."

Rosberg, winner of three out of four races before the British Grand Prix earlier this month, echoed his teammate's thoughts.

"It has been a very emotional week," he said.

"The drivers paid our final respects to Jules and said farewell. He was a very talented driver and a good guy.

"My thoughts in these days are with his family and close friends. Everyone will be sharing the same feelings in the ­paddock this week, but we must race on and race hard for Jules as he would have wanted to be doing himself."

Emotional and mental stability

Much focus this weekend will be on the emotional and ­mental stability of the drivers who have appeared most affected by Bianchi's death as Ferrari plan to decorate their garage in a visual tribute to the young driver they were grooming for stardom.

Memories will be all around them as they meet, talk, drive and race and they will almost certainly be upset during the minute's silence planned to be held on ­Sunday 15 minutes before the start of the race.

Mercedes, a team that has experienced more tragedies than most in the marque's long history in motor sport, insist they will help in the ongoing campaign for improved safety in Formula One.

"My first thoughts go to the family and friends of Jules - the loss of a child is something for which there are no words - and on behalf of the team I send them strength for the days and weeks ahead," said team boss Toto Wolff.

"We will honor his memory by continuing to improve the safety of the drivers, team members, circuit workers and spectators under the leadership of the FIA."

Posted in: Feature

blog comments powered by Disqus