The impact and legacy of Jules Bianchi’s death has continued to reverberate through Formula One as drivers, teams and other members of the paddock entourage arrived ahead of this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
In a subdued atmosphere, just two days after the 25-year-old Frenchman’s funeral in his family’s home town of Nice, the routine of pre-race news conferences was overshadowed by memories of a driver regarded widely as a potential world champion.
Ferrari decorated their garage in tributes, drivers added personal stickers to their helmets and their cars have been emblazoned with messages.
Bianchi died last Friday, nine months after sustaining head injuries in a collision with a recovery vehicle in torrential rain during the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka last October.
A Ferrari academy driver, he was racing for the Marussia team, but tipped to return to the Italians as a race-winner in the making.
Almost all of his contemporaries in karting said they had regarded him as their yardstick, several declaring he was not only the best kart racer they had seen, but also the best racing driver.
“Unfortunately, in Formula One, he did not have a car to show what he could really do,” said Felipe Massa, a 34-year-old veteran of 14 seasons who regarded Bianchi as “a great friend” and “the best go-kart driver I ever saw.”
As a Brazilian from Sao Paulo, who grew up in awe of three-time world champion and compatriot Ayrton Senna, Massa’s compliment was significant, warm and generous.
“Now, he is gone and that is so sad, but he is in a good place and looking at us and I think and I hope he is happy there.”
Equally, Massa had every right to his anger that 20 years after Senna’s death at Imola during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, Bianchi had died in unacceptable circumstances when his car aquaplaned into a tractor.
“I think if you go back to what’s happened to Jules many things changed after that,” Massa told reporters.
“So, unfortunately, we need to see that type of accident to understand what’s happened.
“I really agree that Formula One has changed a lot, especially after Ayrton Senna’s accident and I believe the car is very safe now.
“We always need to keep working to improve the safety, not just the car, but the tracks and everything is very safe now.
“So what happened in Japan – it was a different situation. What’s happened in Japan is something that we cannot, and I cannot accept, because a car crash on the tractor.”
“So, unfortunately, we need to see that type of accident to change something.”