THE world of motorsport has paid tribute to one of France's most promising young drivers, Formula 1 racer Jules Bianchi, who has died as a result of severe head injuries sustained in a crash last year.
The 25-year-old had spent nine months in a coma at a hospital in Nice after his Marussia car crashed into a recovery vehicle at the 2014 Japanese grand prix. The accident happened when Bianchi's car slid off a wet track at Suzuka and into a crane picking up a Sauber that had crashed a lap earlier.
Bianchi, from Nice, made his F1 debut for Marussia in 2013 and came ninth in last year's Monaco grand prix, the best performance of his short career.
Local newspaper Nice Matin pictured Bianchi at the age of four driving a toy go-kart. His father Philippe told the paper: "He only had that in mind. As soon as his feet touched the pedals, he wanted to climb into a kart."
President Hollande said in a statement: "French motorsport has lost one of its great young talents."
Manor Formula 1 team, formerly known as Marussia, tweeted: "We are devastated to lose Jules after such a hard-fought battle. It was a privilege to have him race for our team."
Team principal John Booth said: "Jules was a shining talent. He was destined for great things in our sport; success he so richly deserved.
"He was also a magnificent human being, making a lasting impression on countless people all over the world. They recognised, as did we, that at the same time as being a fiercely motivated racer, he was also an extremely warm, humble and intensely likeable person, who lit up our garage and our lives."
Manor Marussia driver Roberto Merhi said: "The best driver that I raced against has left us after nine months fighting for his life."
Formula 1 had not seen a fatal crash since 1994, when Ayrton Senna died at the San Marino grand prix.F1 group chief executive Bernie Ecclestone said: "It was so sad to hear the news about Jules. We are now going to miss a very talented driver and a really nice person. We must not let this ever happen again."
Photo: Henry Mineur
.@Jules_Bianchi estará en Hungría: Habrá minuto de silencio - http://t.co/WQxzneiFRP #F1 pic.twitter.com/oe0TssDjbU— LaF1es (@LaF1es) July 20, 2015
The funeral of Jules Bianchi will be held on Tuesday: http://t.co/iirzdIF5AZ #RIPJules pic.twitter.com/3wnJW1X7Ci— Formula 1 (@F1) July 20, 2015
WorldSBK grid together in silence for @Jules_Bianchi before Race 2 pic.twitter.com/o6vWI2FIKS— WorldSBK (@WorldSBK) July 19, 2015