Birthplace: Nice, France
Jules Bianchi was tipped as a Ferrari driver of the future but was killed after suffering serious head injuries in a crash at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.
Bianchi came from a family of racers including his uncle Lucien, who won the 1968 Le Mans 24 Hours with Pedro Rodriguez and made 17 grand prix starts, and grandfather Mauro who was a successful GT racer.
Jules cut his teeth in go karts at the age of five, and after a string of successes graduated to racing cars in Formula Renault 2.0 in 2007. He won the French series at the first time of asking with five wins, while also competing in the European championship.
Bianchi made a successful transition to Formula Three the following year, placing third overall in the F3 Euroseries. He won two rounds plus the prestigious Masters race for ART.
Having remained with the crack F3 outfit for 2009 Bianchi took a comfortable championship win with eight victories. His career had gathered momentum and no less a team than Ferrari snapped him up for their F1 young driver programme.
Bianchi raced in GP2 Asia over the winter in preparation for his first year in the main series in 2010. Placing third overall as a rookie was no mean feat, although there were no wins, and he was fortunate to escape serious injury in a crash at the Hungaroring.
Remaining with ART for a fourth year in 2011, Bianchi placed second in the curtailed, four-round GP2 Asia championship won by Romain Grosjean. He was unable to keep Grosjean from the crown in the main series either, and was pipped to second place by Luca Filippi who enjoyed a strong second half of the season.
Bianchi ended the year third again with a single victory after beating his former F3 rival Christian Vietoris in fine style at Silverstone. But despite scoring consistently Bianchi’s season never recovered from a poor start to the year which included crashed in Spain and Monaco.
Nonetheless he retained the support of Ferrari, gaining valuable further F1 experience with them and, in 2012, Force India, who gave Bianchi track time in nine of that year’s free practice sessions.
Meanwhile he kept his racing skills sharp by competing in the Formula Renault 3.5 championship with Tech 1 Racing. It was a year bookended by frustrations: he placed second on the road in his first start but lost the result – and 18 valuable points – due to a technical infringement.
Bianchi went into the final double-header leading the championship, but slipped behind Robin Frijns in the penultimate round. In the showdown Bianchi sprung a surprise attack on Frijns, passing him on the track, only to be bundled off the circuit by his rival a few corners later. Although he was incensed, the stewards’ punishment for Frijns was not enough to hand Bianchi the title.
Another aggravation awaited Bianchi early in 2013. After further tests for Force India he was in the running to join the team alongside Paul di Resta. But during the final pre-season test the team announced he’d been passed over for Adrian Sutil.
Fortunately for Bianchi a vacancy opened up at Marussia when Luiz Razia’s sponsorship package failed to materialise. He was quickly confirmed as the team’s second driver for 2013 alongside fellow Formula One debutant Max Chilton.
Bianchi settled in quickly and gave team their most important result of the year in his second appearance for them. Thirteenth at Sepang was their best result of the season, and it eventually netted them a valuable tenth in the constructors’ championship.
Bianchi was retained by Marussia for 2014 and continued to perform occasional tests for Ferrari, who also became his team’s engine suppliers.
In Monaco that year the team achieved a breakthrough when Bianchi scored their first points finish at Monaco.
However during Japanese Grand Prix later in the year Bianchi lost control of his car while passing the scene of Adrian Sutil’s crashed Sauber. Bianchi’s Marussia struck a crane which was recovering Sutil’s car. Bianchi never regained consciousness and passed away in a hospital in Nice on 17th July 2015.
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Images © Marussia, F3 Euroseries, GP2, Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo, Renault/DPPI, Force India