Will Stevens has paid tribute to Jules Bianchi’s legacy at the Manor Marussia team, but admitted that this weekend at the Hungaroring will be “tough” after its former driver passed away last Friday.
Bianchi’s ninth-place finish in last year’s Monaco Grand Prix allowed the team to continue into 2015 with the promise of extra prize money, but his accident at Suzuka – and death nine months later in hospital in France – has cast a dark shadow.
“It’s been a difficult week, and one – as a team – we have to deal with and move forwards,” said Stevens. “We all need to stick together to gather our thoughts, and clearly the weekend is going to be tough."
On the subject of Bianchi’s legacy to Manor, he added: “The difference Jules made last year in Monaco is absolutely key to us still being here. There’s not a single member of the team who underestimates everything he did for this team.
“Without his contribution, things for this team would be very different now.
“I knew him from an early age in karting; wherever he was there was never a bad word said about him. He always was a really great guy.”
Always a risk in open-wheel racers
On the subject of F1 safety, Stevens believes much has already been done to make injuries rarer.
“We’re never going to be able to make it 100% safe, but with the advances we’ve made over the past few years, nowadays it is actually incredibly safe,” he said.
“Obviously the one remaining factor is impacts to the head, which in an open cockpit is always going to be there. That’s one thing that needs to be looked at, but it’s very difficult to get away from things like that entirely.”
When asked if he was in favour of closed cockpits, Stevens replied: “For me personally, there’s elements of danger in that as well, if you need to get out in a hurry. You can create different problems, so there’s pros and cons.
“Formula 1 has always been open cockpit, and if it’s been like that forever then, personally, it should continue. But safety is the number one priority and if the systems come in place, to improve things, then we need to look at it.”