Jules Bianchi hailed as mourners attend F1 driver’s funeral

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Jules Bianchi has been remembered as a “humble” winner in a Formula One career cut short in the sport’s first deadly crash in more than 20 years.

With his race helmet perched on his coffin, mourners gathered in Nice for the funeral of the French driver, who died on 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,” his manager Nicolas Todt, the son of FIA president Jean Todt, said.

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 accident on October 5, 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.

Outside the service, French driver Jean-Eric Vergne said: “He wrote the history of F1. (Bianchi) has contributed enormously and will watch over us all.”

Solemn applause resonated as the family took the coffin inside Sainte Reparate Cathedral, then church bells sounded.

Among the mourners were F1 stars Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg and four-times champion Alain Prost.

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.