NICE, France (AP) — Race helmet perched on his coffin, Jules Bianchi was mourned Tuesday as a “humble” winner in a Formula One career cut short in the sport’s first deadly crash in more than 20 years.
Tributes mounted for the French driver, who died Friday after nine months in a coma following the crash during last year’s Japanese Grand Prix.
“He was so natural, humble. F1 is a complicated profession, often you can lose touch with reality – he always knew how to remain humble, nice with everybody and that made him different from the others,” said his manager, Nicolas Todt, the son of FIA President Jean Todt.
Born into the sport, Bianchi competed in 34 races over the 2013 and 2014 seasons, scoring the first ever championship points for Manor — then known as Marussia — by finishing ninth at last year’s Monaco Grand Prix. Bianchi had been in a coma since the Oct. 5 accident, in which he collided at high speed with a mobile crane that was picking up another crashed car.
Bianchi’s family had already lost a member in a crash. In 1969, his great-uncle Lucien died in an accident during testing at the Le Mans race track when he crashed his Alfa Romeo into a post, a year after winning the prestigious endurance race. Bianchi’s grandfather, Mauro, also raced.
“He wrote the history of F1,” French driver Jean-Eric Vergne said outside the funeral. “(Bianchi) has contributed enormously and will watch over us all.”
Solemn applause resonated as the family took the casket inside Sainte Reparate Cathedral, then church bells sounded.
Bianchi was the first driver to die of injuries sustained in an F1 race since Ayrton Senna was killed at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
Donaldson reported from Paris.
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