Jules Bianchi: Marussia to use single driver in GP

MARUSSIA will run only Max Chilton throughout the inaugural Russian Grand Prix weekend out of respect for the critically injured Jules Bianchi, it is understood.

Jules Bianchi of France and Marussia's name is displayed above his side of the team garage. Picture: Getty
Jules Bianchi of France and Marussia's name is displayed above his side of the team garage. Picture: Getty

The Banbury-based marque have made American reserve Alexander Rossi eligible for the race as a potential replacement for Bianchi.

At present the name of Jules Bianchi hangs over the Marussia garage at the Sochi Autodrom, and the second car is being prepared.

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But with the Frenchman’s life hanging in the balance following brain surgery in the wake of his frightening accident in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix, Marussia will only send out young Briton Chilton.

No penalty or sanction will be applied.

The decision regarding running one car is based with Bianchi’s parents in mind, with Philippe and Christine currently at their son’s bedside at the Mie General Medical Centre in Yokkaichi.

Team principal John Booth has also stayed behind in Japan for support and will not be flying to Russia, leaving sporting director Graeme Lowdon to run matters.

On Thursday, Lowdon described Bianchi as “not only an exceptional Formula One driver, but also an exceptional human being”.

At the team’s paddock building a sombre mood was prevalent, despite overwhelming support from all around them, with every driver offering words of sympathy and understanding throughout the day.

The 21 drivers will carry the message ‘Tous avec Jules’ (All with Jules) on their helmets, along with his race number of 17.

Bianchi has been diagnosed with a diffuse axonal injury to the brain whereby damage has occurred over a widespread area.

The prognosis is not good as such injuries often result in coma, and if severe, 90 per cent of patients never regain consciousness.

Bianchi’s injury was sustained after the 25-year-old smashed into a recovery vehicle removing Adrian Sutil’s Sauber that had crashed a few minutes previously with heavy rain falling.

FIA race director Charlie Whiting is currently conducting an inquiry into the circumstances and cause of the accident after a request to do so by president Jean Todt.

Whiting’s findings are expected to be presented to the drivers ahead of their briefing late on Friday, with suggestions as to how to proceed for the future.

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone believes the incident was just a freak given all the circumstances that conspired against Bianchi at that moment in time.

Ecclestone told Press Association Sport: “There’s a word that covers all these things and it’s called accident. It’s something that wasn’t planned.

“Could it have been avoided? Was it a good thing to run the race? (due to the adverse weather with Typhoon Phanphone in proximity)

“I think so because at the time there was no point in saying ‘well, let’s run it at 11 o’clock or 12’ because we didn’t know what was going to happen.

“There was a possibility of there being no bad weather at all. There is not much you can do.

“On some things you can’t make decisions because whatever you do is wrong.

“What if we’d started at 11 o’clock and it was bucketing it down, and then at three o’clock the sun was shining?

“People would say we were idiots. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

The accident has again raised the debate as to whether closed cockpits should be introduced into Formula One as it is the second incident in the past five years.

In qualifying for the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, Felipe Massa was struck on the helmet by a suspension spring from another car which resulted in him undergoing life-saving brain surgery.

Yet Ecclestone added: “It wouldn’t have helped Jules in any way, shape or form.

“If you see his car going underneath that vehicle, which weighs about 10 tonnes and it lifts it off the ground...it wouldn’t have done any good.

“It was just a whole series of things that has made it so bloody unfortunate.

“It’s the same with what happened with Felipe. Two or three centimetres either side...

“It’s the same with this accident. If Jules had gone either way it would have been a different result.

“I’m sorry to say there was nothing you can really do about it.”

With Bianchi’s life in the balance, Ecclestone said: “It sounds bloody awful. Whatever can be done is being done.”