Remembering a potential superstar, and a gentleman

Formula 1 editor Jonathan Noble reflects on the life and times of Jules Bianchi, who passed away today.

Remembering a potential superstar, and a gentleman
Jules Bianchi, Marussia F1 Team MR03
Jules Bianchi, Marussia F1 Team MR03
Jules Bianchi, and the Marussia F1 Team celebrate his and the team's first ever F1 points with his ninth place finish
Jules Bianchi, Marussia F1 Team
Jules Bianchi, Marussia F1 Team
Jules Bianchi, Marussia F1 Team
A message of support from the circuit for Jules Bianchi
Jules Bianchi, Marussia F1 Team MR03 takes the chequered flag at the end of the race to score the team's first F1 points
Jules Bianchi, Marussia F1 Team
Jules Bianchi, Ferrari Test Driver with the media
Jules Bianchi, Ferrari F14-T Test Driver
Jules Bianchi, Ferrari F14-T Test Driver
Jules Bianchi, Marussia F1 Team MR03

It was the news that everyone in Formula 1 feared would come one day, but that still did not lessen the sense of shock when it arrived.

Jules Bianchi's death, as a result of the injuries he suffered in last year's Japanese Grand Prix, has hit hard with everybody involved in motorsport.

The passing of any driver is sad, but what hurts the most right now is that Bianchi was truly one of F1's good men. The adage that nice guys finish last did not ring true with the Frenchman.

He was a driver who had the right balance of speed on the track and perfect manners off it, for Bianchi was friends with everyone.

Always polite; always with a smile on his face, Bianchi put a lie to the claim that you needed to be completely ruthless if you were going to make a success of a career in F1.

But do not imagine for a second that the friendly guy we all got to know was not ultra competitive or totally focused on getting to the very top.

That Monaco brilliance

His points-scoring result at last year's Monaco Grand Prix was not simply the result of touring around and picking up the pieces of other's misfortune. It was a top class drive that included a brilliant and bolshy overtaking move of Kamui Kobayashi at Rascasse.

You only needed to spend a bit of time with Bianchi to understand that he was a man driven to be the best.

I fondly remember (and cheekily never let him forget) about a head-to-head reaction competition that the pair of us took part in shortly before he got his big break in F1.

We were present at a media event in Abu Dhabi aimed at showcasing racing driver skills, and part of the programme involved testing reaction times.

A computer was set-up with two thumb controllers, which we had to click as quickly as possible as soon as a simulated starting green light appeared on a computer screen.

It was best out of 10, and the first time through against Bianchi I comfortably won – clearly with my reaction times have been honed from playing too many computer games as a kid than any pretence of being a better driver.

Jules's competitive spirit meant he could not accept not winning, so he demanded a rematch. The result was the same, so he asked we go again. And when he still did not win, we went again, and again. And again.

In the end, amid much laughter – and ribbing from his training staff – he conceded that this was a game he was not going to win. And frequently, whenever I saw him after that, we would have a joke about how quick my thumbs were. 

But when it came to driving racing cars fast, I knew he was streets ahead.

"Ferrari knew how good he was"

Bianchi's speed behind the wheel was never in doubt. In the modern world, where it is so hard for a new driver to make an impression, he knuckled down and quietly got on impressing at Marussia.

Ferrari well knew just how good he was, and it was pretty clear before that Suzuka race that it had become time for him to move on from his apprenticeship.

A move to Sauber for 2015 was on the cards; and how we would have loved to have seen him fighting for the points – and even more – with that improved Ferrari engine this year.

Where would those performances have left this year's driver market, the so-called ‘silly season’, too?

We will sadly never know just what he could have achieved, but that does not dampen the impact that Bianchi has had on all of us.

We will remember the victories in his junior career. We will remember that brilliant afternoon at Monaco. We will remember the laughs.

But most of all, we will remember what a true gentleman he was.

F1 is a poorer place without him.

shares
comments
Bianchi’s passing mourned by French F1 stars

Previous article

Bianchi’s passing mourned by French F1 stars

Next article

Jules Bianchi: A career in pictures

Jules Bianchi: A career in pictures
Load comments
The details that boosted Verstappen and held back Hamilton in Austin Prime

The details that boosted Verstappen and held back Hamilton in Austin

As the 2021 Formula 1 title battle winds towards its climax, the United States GP added another thrilling act in the Lewis Hamilton-Max Verstappen battle. Although Hamilton aced the start, Verstappen and Red Bull took the initiative with strategy and were richly rewarded, despite Mercedes' best efforts as the race went down to the wire

US Grand Prix Driver Ratings Prime

US Grand Prix Driver Ratings

On a baking hot afternoon in Texas, Formula 1 drivers were tested to their limits. As the pressure on the title contending squads reaches an ever-greater level of intensity, the foremost challengers again showed their class, but were outshone by a standout drive from the upper midfield

The 10 greatest drives of lost legend Jo Siffert Prime

The 10 greatest drives of lost legend Jo Siffert

It's 50 years since Jo Siffert was killed in his prime at Brands Hatch. The Swiss scored just two world championship wins in a Formula 1 career spent largely with privateer teams, but showed on numerous occasions in single-seaters and in sportscars with Porsche that he could beat any of the best drivers of his era given the right equipment.

Formula 1
Oct 24, 2021
Why a misunderstood Kimi Raikkonen will thrive in retirement Prime

Why a misunderstood Kimi Raikkonen will thrive in retirement

Three years on from Kimi Raikkonen's last Grand Prix victory at Austin, he is now six races away from ending the longest Formula 1 career in history. His friend and former Ice1 Racing rally team PR man Anthony Peacock explains why there’s nobody quite like the 2007 world champion and why F1 will miss him (but he won’t miss it).

Formula 1
Oct 24, 2021
How Verstappen has become F1 champion material Prime

How Verstappen has become F1 champion material

As Red Bull and Honda go all-out for victory in the Japanese engine manufacturer’s last season of its latest Formula 1 dalliance, Max Verstappen finds himself thrust into a compelling title fight with Lewis Hamilton. He told OLEG KARPOV about his evolution into a world championship contender and why Red Bull's no compromise ethos suits him down to the ground

Formula 1
Oct 23, 2021
Why long-run times should please Red Bull in Austin F1 battle Prime

Why long-run times should please Red Bull in Austin F1 battle

Mercedes has been on a roll of late in the ultra-tight fight to win the 2021 Formula 1 world championship. It started off well in practice at Austin for this weekend’s US Grand Prix, but Red Bull got closer as Friday unfolded and even seemed to find an edge in one critical area of what seems set to be set to be another close contest.

Formula 1
Oct 23, 2021
The six critical factors that could hand F1 2021 glory to Hamilton or Verstappen Prime

The six critical factors that could hand F1 2021 glory to Hamilton or Verstappen

The 2021 Formula 1 title battle is finely poised with six races remaining, as just six points separate championship leader Max Verstappen from seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton. In such a closely-fought season, the outcome could hinge on several small factors playing the way of Red Bull or Mercedes

Formula 1
Oct 22, 2021
Can Whitmarsh appointment help Aston succeed where its F1 rivals failed? Prime

Can Whitmarsh appointment help Aston succeed where its F1 rivals failed?

Aston Martin owner Lawrence Stroll is determined to make the group a billion-dollar business. MARK GALLAGHER analyses his latest play – bringing former McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh into the fold

Formula 1
Oct 22, 2021