Jules Bianchi: Lowdon’s tribute to ‘F1 family’

Jules Bianchi's car has been retired for the Russian Grand Prix. Picture: AP
Jules Bianchi's car has been retired for the Russian Grand Prix. Picture: AP
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Marussia sporting director Graeme Lowdon has claimed the past week has been “incredibly difficult” for his team in the wake of Jules Bianchi’s life-threatening accident.

Lowdon was speaking out for the first time since Bianchi crashed into a recovery vehicle in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix, sustaining severe injuries to his brain which required immediate surgery.

Bianchi remains in a critical condition at the Mie General Medical Centre in Yokkaichi where parents Philippe and Christine, along with Marussia team principal John Booth, are maintaining a bedside vigil. As a mark of respect to Bianchi’s family, with brother Tom and sister Melanie also in Japan, Marussia have retired the 25-year-old’s car from this weekend’s grand prix in Russia.

Despite placing reserve Alexander Rossi on standby to deputise on Thursday, Marussia said their decision was “the appropriate course of action under the difficult circumstances of the weekend”.

Reflecting on the tumult of recent days, Lowdon said: “It’s been an incredibly difficult week for Formula 1, but also an incredibly difficult week for our team. Jules had a terrible accident at Suzuka. Everybody in the team, and I know much wider than that, are with Jules at this moment, and also with his family. But I have to say we have been helped enormously by the Formula 1 family.

“It would have really difficult for us to get through this week without the help of some very key people. I’d like to thank [Ferrari team principal] Marco Mattiacci for his support and kindness, not just in his role at Ferrari, but personally as well. He was at the hospital immediately afterwards and provided an awful lot of comfort to the people there.”

Lowdon also cited F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone’s involvement, notably with regard to the decision in running only one car this weekend.

“The main thing we wanted to do was something useful and supportive – as much as we can – for Jules and his family. That was our primary objective,” added Lowdon. “But we are also lying ninth in the world championship, which is a very important position for us, and we’re largely in that position because of Jules. He is a racing driver and he would want us to do the best we can, so we thought the right thing to do was to come here and take part in the event.

“We found it was something we could do. It’s also been useful for the people in our team because they want to give an expression of support for Jules. So I hope people understand what we’ve done and why we’ve done it, and even if it makes a small difference, it makes a difference in the right place.

“I have to say we did seek opinion from a lot of people to ensure we made the right decision and, on a personal note, I can not speak too highly of the support myself and the team have received from Bernie. In these situations it’s incredibly reassuring to know people care, and if I can sum up the support we’ve had from Bernie, it’s that he cares. It has been extremely valuable and useful.”

With Bianchi a member of Ferrari’s driver academy since 2009 – he has effectively been on loan to Marussia the past two years – Mattiacci stated the difficulties also being faced by everyone at Maranello.

“It has been an extremely painful week for all of us in Formula 1, but specifically for all of us at Ferrari,” said Mattiacci. “With Jules being a part of the Ferrari family, we are in pain at the moment. To go through this weekend, again we are going through a lot of pain, but we are here to race.” For Marussia, the team’s focus in Sochi is now on their sole driver Max Chilton, with Lowdon recognising the 23-year-old Briton has “a tough job” on his hands. “We recognise we’ve made a situation for Max where he has a lot of extra things to think about,” said Lowdon. “But I know he wants to demonstrate his support for the work the team has done, and that Jules has done as well.”