FP – Daniel Ricciardo says Jules Bianchi will forever be in his heart – a message he has vowed to carry into this weekend’s Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix.
Ricciardo was among a host of drivers who farewelled the Frenchman at an emotional funeral in Nice on Tuesday, four days after he died from injuries suffered in a collision with a recovery vehicle at last year’s Japanese Grand Prix.
It marked the first death of an F1 driver as a result of a racing accident since Brazilian Ayrton Senna in 1994.
A minute’s silence will be observed prior to the start of Sunday’s race at the Hungaroring circuit, which is likely to be more subdued than usual.
In a short Instagram video late on Wednesday, Ricciardo delivered a final salute to Bianchi – wearing a hat with the words “Forever in my heart #17” written inside the visor.
“I’m representing this message for Jules this weekend,” said the 25-year-old, who met Bianchi while competing in Formula Renault 2.0 shortly after moving to Europe in 2007.
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton made clear this week he will also have much more on his mind than extending his 17-point lead over Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, at a track where he has shone in past seasons.
“Saying goodbye to Jules was incredibly hard for everyone,” Hamilton 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.
“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.
“Now our sport embarks on a tough road ahead,” he added, in a statement from Mercedes.
“We have made great progress for safety thus far and I know that the FIA will continue to make steps forward to improve even further.”
The sport has reviewed many safety procedures since Bianchi lost control of his car in torrential rain at the Suzuka circuit and crashed last October.
Most notably, it introduced a ‘virtual’ Safety Car to try and avoid any repeat.
The International Motoring Federation (FIA) has also retired number 17, Bianchi’s racing number.
Rosberg echoed Hamilton’s sentiments in a statement from Mercedes.
“It has been a very emotional week,” he said.
“The drivers paid our final respects to Jules and said farewell.
“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.”
Ferrari, whom Bianchi was tipped to join, plan to decorate their garage in a visual tribute to the young driver they were grooming for stardom.