SOCHI Russia (Reuters) - Marussia will race with only one car in Sunday’s Russian Formula One Grand Prix out of respect for their severely injured French driver Jules Bianchi, the team said on Friday.
Bianchi remains in a critical but stable condition in a Japanese hospital after he crashed into a recovery tractor at Suzuka during last Sunday’s rain-soaked Japanese Grand Prix and suffered a traumatic brain injury.
“The Team have written to the stewards of the meeting to inform them that they have withdrawn their second car,” Marussia said in a statement.
Along with Britain’s Max Chilton, Marussia had entered American Alexander Rossi, their official reserve, for the inaugural race in Russia but had made clear on Thursday that was only a provisional move.
“The Team feels strongly that fielding a single car ... is the appropriate course of action under the difficult circumstances of the weekend,” Marussia said.
“Jules’ car crew have built a second car, which has been scrutineered and is ready to race, and this will remain on his side of the garage throughout the weekend,” the team added.
“In support of Jules and his family, the team and their cars will carry the familiar #JB17 graphic, to ensure that although Jules is not with them in Sochi this weekend, he is, nonetheless, racing on with the Marussia F1 Team.”
The 25-year-old Frenchman’s name also remained over the garage along with Chilton’s and all the other drivers carried stickers declaring ‘Tous Avec Jules #17’ on their helmets in a gesture of support.
Bianchi’s injury is the most serious suffered by a Formula One driver during a race since Brazilian Felipe Massa was hit on the helmet by a bouncing spring at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix while racing for Ferrari.
Massa, now at Williams, suffered life-threatening head injuries and remained in a coma for several days. The sport has not had a driver fatality since Brazil’s triple champion Ayrton Senna died at Imola in 1994.
“I don’t know how to put into words how truly devastated I am by what has happened to Jules,” said Chilton in the statement.
“The support from the F1 family has been incredible and all we can do is be there to support Jules’ family at this difficult time. It is going to be a very emotional weekend for the whole Team, but we will try to get through it and keep praying for Jules.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford