Jules Bianchi was still embarking on the early stages of his Formula 1 career when he suffered a devastating accident during last year’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Bianchi was serving his apprenticeship with Ferrari’s Driver Academy and was destined for greatness when he struck a recovery truck, sustaining a diffuse axonal injury and falling into a coma from which he never awoke.
Bianchi’s performances throughout his career had marked him out as a star, with a successful karting career being taken to the next level when he stepped up to single-seater racing.
Bianchi raced in Formula 3 in 2008 and 2009, claiming victories in his first season before romping to the title in the latter campaign.
Those efforts enabled him to join Ferrari’s Driver Academy and he received his maiden Formula 1 test at the end of the year, before going on to drive the Scuderia’s cars again in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
He did so following campaigns in GP2, in which he received some criticism for his driving style but proved his talent by claiming third in the championship in both 2010 and 2011.
For 2012 he moved to the Formula Renault 3.5 Series, finishing as runner-up to Robin Frijns, and also participated in several practice sessions for Force India in Formula 1.
In 2013 he tested for Force India in the winter but the squad opted to hand a seat to the returning Adrian Sutil, seemingly leaving Bianchi out in the cold.
However, Luiz Razia encountered sponsorship issues and Bianchi was drafted in by Marussia to make his Formula 1 debut in Australia, having only tested the car for the first time a few weeks beforehand.
He immediately impressed with his pace and maturity, drawing comparisons to the likes of Fernando Alonso, who also shone in sub-par machinery.
Racing with a backmarker team such as Marussia provided Bianchi with the perfect environment in which to hone his craft and he did so with aplomb.
Bianchi’s 13th place finish in Malaysia netted Marussia 10th position in the Constructors’ championship for the first time in its history.
Bianchi remained with Marussia in 2014 and continued his performances, with the highlight coming in Monaco.
Bianchi was strong all weekend but a gearbox problem resigned him to the back of the grid, while a five second time penalty exacerbated matters further.
Nonetheless, Bianchi fought his way through the pack and claimed ninth position, the first – and only – points for the team in Formula 1.
It proved to be the points which rewarded Marussia financially and secured their Formula 1 future when their situation looked bleak across the winter.
Bianchi continued his strong performances - qualifying 12th in Britain - but no more points were in the offing, until his tragic accident in Japan.
Bianchi was in line for a Sauber seat this year and Ferrari was convinced in his long-term potential to emerge as a champion.
The softly-spoken Bianchi was also a gentleman outside of the cockpit, with his attitude and dignity earning him plaudits in the paddock.
F1Zone.net sends its sympathies to the family and friends of Jules.