Formula One have announced they will retire car number 17 in memory of Jules Bianchi, after the 25 year old Formula One driver passed away last Friday. He had been in a coma since a severe crash during the Japanese Grand Prix last year.
The world of motorsport came together in mourning today as the funeral of Jules Bianchi took place. The ceremony at the Sainte-Réparate Cathedral in Nice was attended by many high profile F1 drivers, including Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Alain Prost. The extremely likeable Frenchman had been unconscious since the crash at Suzuka last October. The severe brain damage meant recovery was always unlikely, but the sad statement from his family announcing his passing still hit the motorsport world hard.
FIA today confirmed that the number 17 will be retired in memory of the departed Bianchi. The number had been specifically chosen by Bianchi, as are all numbers today. Whilst not his first choice, the number became increasingly significant to the young driver as he became more established in the sport. Jean Todt, President of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) announced: “The car number 17 will be retired from the FIA Formula One World Championship in honour of Jules Bianchi. As F1 car numbers are now personally chosen by each driver, the FIA believes it to be an appropriate gesture to retire Jules Bianchi’s number 17. As a result, this number can no longer be used for a car competing in the FIA Formula One World Championship.”
Bianchi was one of the most promising drivers in Formula One. As one of the few drivers chosen by a smaller team for their skill than their financial backing, Bianchi performed as well as he could in the underpowered Manor F1 cars. His ninth place finish in Monaco 2014 gave Manor their first championship points, securing them enough prize money to be able to return this season. Since his death was announced, more details of his future path have been revealed, with Ferrari having earmarked Bianchi as Raikkonen’s replacement, possibly as early as the 2016 F1 Season. His untimely death has cut short was all set to be a promising career.