July 26, 2015 / 11:00 AM / 4 years ago

Bianchi family join drivers for sad tribute

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Jules Bianchi’s family joined Formula One racers in a sad circle on the Hungarian Grand Prix starting grid on Sunday to pay tribute to the late Frenchman.

F1 supporters hold a banner in memoriam of former French Formula One driver Jules Bianchi during the first practice session of the Hungarian F1 Grand Prix at the Hungaroring circuit, near Budapest, Hungary July 24, 2015. The popular Bianchi died in hospital last Friday, nine months after his Marussia car slammed into a recovery tractor at the Japanese Grand Prix. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

Arm in arm, with the team principals standing behind and Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone alongside, they stood for a minute’s silence before the Hungarian national anthem was sung.

At the end the 20 drivers collected their helmets from inside the circle, leaving Bianchi’s briefly alone on the asphalt.

The family — including Bianchi’s mother, father, brother and sister — attended the race after Ecclestone sent a plane to collect them from Nice in southern France.

Bianchi’s funeral was held in Nice on Tuesday, with drivers including Formula One champions past and present attending, after he died of injuries sustained in last October’s Japanese Grand Prix.

The 25-year-old had been in a coma since he suffered severe head injuries when his Marussia car skidded off the track at Suzuka and hit a recovery tractor.

He was the first Formula One driver to die of injuries suffered over a race weekend since Brazilian Ayrton Senna and Austrian Roland Ratzenberger were killed in separate crashes at Imola in 1994.

The Formula One teams and drivers have been paying tribute to him in Hungary, the last race before the August break, with ‘Ciao Jules’, #JB17 and ‘Jules Forever’ stickers on cars and helmets.

Double Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton had #FlyHighJules on his helmet.

The governing FIA had already announced that Bianchi’s racing number, 17, has been retired from the championship and will not be available to any other driver.

“Jules was universally liked in the paddock and the support of everybody to the team has been fantastic,” Manor Marussia chief executive Graeme Lowdon said on Friday.

“It’s touched an awful lot of people and I think Jules’ family have really carried themselves in an incredible way, really incredible, in a situation that I couldn’t really comprehend.”

Editing by John O'Brien/Amlan Chakraborty

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