Monday, July 20, 2015

The All-Too Brief Career of Jules Bianchi

Photo Credit: Ferrari S.p.A.

Despite a short life and career, Jules Bianchi made a reputable impression on the motorsport world. Starting off as a karting champion, the driver was 18 years old when he won the French Formula Renault 2.0 crown in 2007. Nine wins and a championship in Formula 3 Euro Series garnered attention from the Scuderia Ferrari organization.

In late 2009, Jules Bianchi received an invitation to drive a Ferrari F60 Formula 1 with the team. In part of a press release, Bianchi responded to the question of testing the car with the following statement: "I am more than happy! It is difficult for me to explain how I feel, but it is something special. I know this is the first step on a journey that could turn out very nicely, but I’m equally aware that there is still a long way to go to get to Formula 1. In fact, next year, I’m competing in GP2 with ART Grand Prix and that will be the series in which I have to prove my worth." Impressing the team, he was enlisted to the newly-formed Ferrari Driver Academy becoming the first prospect to be granted a position. Bianchi held a test driver position with the Scuderia Ferrari team for 2011 and remained close with Ferrari throughout his Formula 1 career.  

Spending a period as the test driver for Force India in 2012, Jules Bianchi’s race career in Formula 1 would start in 2013. On at least in occasion, Bianchi was eyed for an expanded role Scuderia Ferrari if Formula 1 had allowed teams to run three cars. While the third car possibility never reached fruition, the young Frenchman’s competition career took place with the Marussia F1 Team (now operating as Manor Marussia F1). Despite being a backmarker organization that had not gained a constructor point since its arrival in 2010, Bianchi maintained enthusiasm for the opportunity. "The week before Melbourne I was totally focused on the race and there was room for nothing else in my head," said Jules Bianchi who commented how he actually grew more at ease as he related with the personnel at Marussia. In response to driving for Marussia powered by a Ferrari engine, the Frenchman admitted, "Do I miss fighting for the victory? Every driver wants to win but the important thing is to manage to create for yourself the right incentives and that’s what I’m doing. I am pleased with the way the first races have gone, with the exception of the last one…"

Photo Credit: Andrew Hone/ Pirelli

Campaigning throughout the 2013 Formula 1 season without scoring any points, Marussia F1 Team was impressed with Jules Bianchi as well as his teammate Max Chilton enough to keep both drivers in cars for the following season. In his second year of Formula 1 competition, Bianchi completed a task no other Marussia driver has been able to accomplish. Through a collective effort, the French and the team behind his Marussia-Ferrari obtained a ninth-place finish (Bianchi actually crossed the finish line in eighth but received a time penalty in post-race for an infraction). The result proved to be a stunning achievement for an organization that needed the right time and the right driver to score a top-10 points-paying position in Formula 1.

Although his performance in Monaco gained him a lot of kudos, Jules Bianchi’s future in Formula 1 was put into question with financial problems for the Marussia F1 Team. Due to the outcome of the fateful Japanese Grand Prix, the aspiring driver’s motor racing future was cut tragically short.

Please rest in peace Jules Bianchi.

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