Jules Bianchi’s tragic demise, nine months after his accident in the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, meant we never got to see his talent in a Formula 1 car worthy of his potential during a race weekend.
What we did witness, however, was his charging drives and determination with the minnows of Marussia that led to him being linked very firmly with a Ferrari future one day.
In professional terms, he will always be remembered for his sensational performance at Monaco in 2014, to score the team’s first-ever F1 points and eventually secure its future on the grid in doing so.
He crossed the line eighth on the road, demoted to ninth with a post-race penalty applied (for improperly serving a starting-grid penalty). His forceful pass on the Caterham of Kamui Kobayashi at Rascasse was a metaphor for his tenacity, the duo having already clashed at the Harbour Chicane earlier in the race.
“It was not an easy race; there were some enjoyable highs along the way, but also a couple of concerning moments too,” he said. “What matters at the end is that we got there and we can savour the highlights for a long time to come.”
Sadly, he would only race nine more times before that dreadful day Suzuka, when his career was ended with a sickening accident with a recovery vehicle at Suzuka.
Impressive Force India Fridays
His first role in F1 was as Friday FP1 driver for Force India in 2012, taking part in nine sessions across the year from China to Abu Dhabi.
He spent two years in F1 with Marussia, finishing 15th on his debut in Melbourne in 2013. Straight away he proved a very capable pair of hands, producing an excellent finishing record and taking the mantle of team leader after the departure of Timo Glock.
The strong ties he had with Ferrari, having long been part of its Driver Academy, culminated in tests in the the Italian squad's F1 car right up to July 2014. His first runs came as early as 2009, at Jerez, and he completed a total of 10 days with the Scuderia.
Impressive pre-F1 credentials
Following a successful karting career, Bianchi graduated to cars in 2007 and claimed the French Formula Renault 2.0 title in his first season with SG Formula.
A long association with ART Grand Prix then followed, his career being guided by team co-owner Nicolas Todt. He finished third in the F3 Euro Series, winning two rounds, and won the prestigious Masters event at Zolder.
Bianchi stayed in F3, dominating the Euro Series at his second attempt with nine wins, as well as a couple of British Championship victories at Algarve.
He graduated to GP2 via the Asian Series at the end of 2009, and also had his first Ferrari F1 running at Jerez in December. He became a Ferrari Driver Academy member at that point, and completed various tests with the Scuderia thereafter.
His career progression then plateaued slightly, as he twice finished third in the GP2 main series with ART for two successive seasons. He also suffered a back fracture in a crash at the Hungaroring in 2010, but despite having surgery, he didn’t miss a round.
A switch to Formula Renault 3.5 followed in 2012, but his title bid ended in controversy when he was hit by Robin Frijns in the final round at Barcelona.
His graduation to F1 with Marussia was confirmed in March 2013.
Off the track, Bianchi will be remembered as a gentle soul, with a sharp sense of humour and a steely determination that promised oh-so-much but a future that was cut so awfully short on that dark day in Japan nine months ago.