F1 bids Bianchi farewell

Formula One drivers Sebastian Vettel (left) and Romain Grosjean join pallbearers carrying the coffin of Jules Bianchi during his funeral in Nice yesterday.
Formula One drivers Sebastian Vettel (left) and Romain Grosjean join pallbearers carrying the coffin of Jules Bianchi during his funeral in Nice yesterday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

NICE (France) • Formula One turned out in force yesterday to pay its last respects to Jules Bianchi at the 25-year-old French driver's funeral in his hometown of Nice.

World champion Lewis Hamilton and many of Bianchi's pitlane colleagues joined family and friends of the talented young Marussia driver who died in Nice on Friday, nine months after his devastating accident at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Two giant portraits of Bianchi in full racing gear adorned the walls either side of the cathedral's main entrance.

His coffin, with his No. 17 helmet resting on it, was carried from the hearse into the cathedral by a group of young drivers, described by Father Sylvain Brison as Bianchi's "racing brothers".

With The Eagles' haunting 1970s anthem Hotel California playing in the background, the coffin was carried up the cathedral's central aisle.

Hamilton and his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg, who had made the short trip from their homes in Monaco, as well as Jean Todt, head of the International Automobile Federation and the French Sports Minister Thierry Braillard, were in attendance for what Bianchi's parents had requested was to be an intimate farewell to their son.

"Jules' death is deeply unjust," Father Brison told the mourners in the Sainte-Reparate Cathedral. "He was happy, because he had turned his dream into reality." He concluded the service by saying: "Jules never managed to make it on to the Formula One podium, and so I ask you to applaud him now."

The emotional gathering, both inside and outside the cathedral, duly did for several minutes.

The service ended with the playing of the tender 1980s classic hit Mistral Gagnant by French singer Renaud.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2015, with the headline 'F1 bids Bianchi farewell'. Print Edition | Subscribe