The motorsport world is today coming to terms with the loss of one of its most promising talents. Jules Bianchi’s skill behind the wheel was evident years before he made his F1 debut, as he dominated the F3 Euro Series in 2009 prior to moving into the stern test that is the GP2 Series in 2010 and later Formula Renault 3.5, where he narrowly missed out on title honours in 2012. Jules was a consistent performer and this consistency translated to not only the numerous Ferrari tests he completed, where he was unperturbed by the significance of the scarlet red chassis, but also his F1 career as a Marussia driver.
Joining the team in 2013 alongside fellow rookie Max Chilton, Bianchi impressed from the outset and maintained his ability to extract the maximum from his machinery throughout his debut year. His thirteenth place finish in the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix proved to be the result which secured Marussia’s standing ahead of Caterham at the end of the season.
While his debut year was excellent, the early stages of 2014 saw Bianchi showcase his talents to an even greater extent, with his sensational drive in Monaco taking Marussia to their first ever points. I remember watching the reaction in the Marussia garage after the chequered flag fell and Jules’ ninth place finish was confirmed – It may have only been two points, but it meant more than any win and the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix was as much a win for Marussia and Bianchi as it was for the Mercedes man atop the podium. In my 2014 mid-season review, I remarked, “for a driver in only his second season, his consistency has been remarkable and his ability to perform under the most extraordinary pressures has been of the caliber shown by the likes of Fernando Alonso.”
Jules was a champion in the making and an asset to his team and his sport. Today’s news is desperately sad and my thoughts are with his family and friends in what must be a hugely difficult time.