Formula One says last goodbye to Jules Bianchi

The world of Formula One, led by world champion Lewis Hamilton, turned out en masse for Jules Bianchi’s funeral yesterday.

Formula One says last goodbye to Jules Bianchi

Hamilton, McLaren’s Jenson Button and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel were among a number of current F1 drivers to pay their respects to the Frenchman at Sainte Reparate Cathedral in his home city of Nice.

Bianchi died on Friday night following the devastating brain injuries he sustained in a crash at the Japanese Grand Prix on October 5.

The 25-year-old, who had been tipped to be a future world champion, never regained conciousness after he hit a recovery vehicle head-on at the rain-lashed race in Suzuka.

He was the first F1 driver to die as a result of injuries sustained at a grand prix weekend since Ayrton Senna. The three-time world champion was killed at the San Marino Grand Prix on May 1, 1994.

Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa and Daniel Ricciardo attended Bianchi’s funeral, with the latter posting a picture alongside his grand prix peers holding a beer. He simply wrote: ‘For Jules’.

FIA president Jean Todt, whose son Nicolas managed Bianchi, four-time world champion Alain Prost and the Frenchman’s former Marussia team-mate Max Chilton were also among the hundreds of mourners in Nice. Bianchi’s father Philippe was seen crying outside the cathedral.

Pallbearers carried Bianchi’s coffin into the cathedral while his race helmet was also taken into the service. Two large portraits of the Frenchman hung outside the cathedral.

Following a short service, Vettel, the four-time world champion, Lotus driver and compatriot of Bianchi, Romain Grosjean, and Ferrari reserve driver Jean-Eric Vergne helped to carry the 25-year-old’s coffin out of the cathedral.

They laid the casket to rest in front of the cathedral with Bianchi’s crash helmet on top and linked arms. Massa and Pastor Maldonado were visibly moved as they both overlooked Bianchi’s coffin.

“Today has been a special day — one of the greatest drivers has left us, but left us with such a beautiful souvenir,” Vergne, a close friend of Bianchi’s, said.

“He has been a great person outside and in the track and his name will stay in the history of the sport.

“He is with the greatest now and he will always be in our hearts.”

It was announced on Monday that the FIA would permanently retire the number 17 that Bianchi used.

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