BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — A poignant minute’s silence was held in honor of Jules Bianchi before the start of the Formula One Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday, with drivers forming a ring and placing their race helmets on the ground.
Bianchi’s mother Christine and father Philippe, brother Tom and sister Melanie were asked by the drivers to join them in the ring as they all linked arms on the Hungaroring grid to remember Bianchi. The French driver died last week from injuries sustained in a head-on crash at the Japanese Grand Prix last October.
Drivers have worn tributes such as “Ciao Jules” or “JB 17” — Bianchi’s initials and car number — this weekend as part of tributes to Bianchi, who was 25.
Several drivers shook hands or hugged the Bianchi family, who were invited to the circuit by Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone.
Brazilian driver Felipe Massa, visibly shaken, had his right arm tightly wrapped around the shoulder of Bianchi’s father, while two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso — who grew close to Bianchi when the Frenchman was a Ferrari test driver — gazed into the distance thoughtfully as a singer performed a remembrance song.
Assembled together in a thick line of red-suited bodies, Bianchi’s Manor Marussia team stood behind a big sign which simply read “We Miss You Jules.”
The only sound to be heard, apart from the solemn strains of the small group of musicians, was the flutter of a helicopter overhead draping the Hungarian flag over the assembled group of mourners.
After the impeccably observed silence, fans broke out into loud and sustained applause.
Moments after winning the race, an emotional Sebastian Vettel dedicated his 41st career win to Bianchi.
“Incredible day, but this victory is for Jules,” Vettel said. “We know it has been an incredibly tough week, and for all of us very difficult, so this one is for him.”
Red Bull drivers Daniil Kvyat, who was second, and Daniel Ricciardo, who was third, also said their first podium finishes of the season were for Bianchi.
Bianchi was touted for great things after progressing through the ranks of the famed Ferrari academy, and Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne joined in the tributes.
“We dedicate this victory to the memory of Jules Bianchi, a fantastic guy whom we all miss terribly,” Marchionne said in a statement.
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