Jules Bianchi: Formula One stars join family at funeral to pay tribute

The Formula One community joined family and friends to pay tribute to one of their own as Jules Bianchi was laid to rest, Tuesday.

The funeral of the French racer, considered one of the brightest talents in the sport, took place in his hometown of Nice.

Bianchi died on Friday from the effects of head injuries sustained in a crash at the Japanese Grand Prix nine months ago.

World champions Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Alain Prost were among the mourners who paid respects to Bianchi. Vettel helped carry the coffin at the end of the service.

Fellow drivers Felipe Massa, Nico Rosberg, Romain Grosjean Pastor Maldonado and Nico Hulkenberg were among those who also made the trip to France before resuming duties at this week’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

The funeral service for Bianchi was held at Nice cathedral. A pair of portraits of the 25-year-old wearing his Marussia racing overalls hung outside the main entrance while his helmet rested on his coffin.

Father Sylvain Brison, speaking in tribute to Bianchi, said: “He was happy, because he had turned his dream into reality.”

His family announced in a statement that Bianchi passed away Friday night at the hospital in Nice, southeastern France, where he was admitted following the October 5 accident.

“Jules fought right to the very end, as he always did, but today his battle came to an end,” said the Bianchi family. “The pain we feel is immense and indescribable.”

Bianchi’s death is the first resulting from a Formula One Grand Prix accident since that of Ayrton Senna in San Marino in 1994.

Motorsport’s governing body, the FIA, has announced the number 17 will be retired from the F1 world championship. It was the number Bianchi had chosen for his car in his last season with the Marussia team.

Bianchi’s F1 career began as a test driver with Ferrari in 2011. He had been part of the Italian team’s young driver academy and had been widely tipped to race for the Scuderia.

After a season as Force India reserve, his first full season in F1 came with Marussia in 2013 and he won the first, and only, point for the team at the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix, where he finished ninth.

As well as his achievements on the track, Bianchi will also be remembered as one of the most popular F1 drivers of his generation.

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