JULY 22, 2015
Mourning drivers to carry Bianchi message
Mourning F1 drivers will carry on their cars the 'CiaoJules' hashtag tribute to their fallen rival Jules Bianchi this weekend in Hungary.
The collective tribute comes in the wake of the talented Frenchman's tragic death last Friday, nine months after falling into a coma following his 2014 Suzuka crash.
No less than 36 of Bianchi's race driver colleagues, including many from the feeder category GP2, flocked to the late 25-year-old's native Nice on Tuesday for the funeral.
F1 stars including Sebastian Vettel, Pastor Maldonado, Felipe Massa, Romain Grosjean and Jean-Eric Vergne were even pallbearers, while others including Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo also paid their respects in Nice.
"It was extremely emotional," Nico Rosberg told Bild newspaper.
Nico Hulkenberg added: "It was the first funeral I have been to. Incredibly emotional and peaceful."
Also there was Grand Prix Drivers' Association president Alex Wurz, but he denied that he had pushed hard for his colleagues to travel to Nice.
"The presence of the drivers came from the heart," said the Austrian. "No one had to be convinced to come.
"Every one of us knows that the life of a friend and a colleague is far more important than any podium."
Another reason for the large turnout, suggested Bianchi's manager Nicholas Todt, was the former Marussia driver's personality.
"He was so natural, humble," said Todt.
"F1 is a complicated profession, often you can lose touch with reality, but he always knew how to remain humble and nice with everybody and that made him different from the others."
Another great tragedy is that Bianchi died before his full potential could be displayed, as he was apparently destined for a future Ferrari race seat.
And Roberto Merhi, his successor at Manor Marussia, said the Bianchi tragedy as well as that of late test driver Maria de Villota, has been hard on the team.
"They did not deserve it. They are a great team who have had bad luck with this and with Maria," he told the Spanish sports daily Marca. "And I'm sorry for the boss, John Booth, who is an excellent manager, one of the best in F1.
"For me, Bianchi was the most complete of my generation," said Spaniard Merhi, 24.
"I remember he arrived for a kart race in 2002 in Vendrell, in Spain, without knowing the circuit, which in this age is crucial, but he was like a bullet immediately.
"In 2009 he won the F3 euro series with a car that was very good, but he crushed everybody," recalled Merhi, "including Bottas and Ricciardo."