“The best driver I ever raced against”: Bianchi’s rivals pay tribute to him

2015 F1 season

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Six drivers who raced against Jules Bianchi in Formula One or earlier in their careers paid tribute to him during today’s FIA press conference. Here’s how they remember the driver who passed away last Saturday.

Roberto Merhi

“The best driver I ever raced against”

“The first time I met Jules was in 2002 in a karting race. It was a race in Spain and he was coming from France and normally when you are that young to come to a track that you don’t know, in Spain, that you never raced, it’s very hard to be quick. And I remember I was really surprised to see that guy was really quick, immediately on that track, and he really impressed everybody.

“After that I followed him really close because we used to race together in go-karts and he was always the driver, the reference, you know? Because he was all the time the quickest and doing really great things.”

“Obviously when I jumped into Formula Renault in 2007 we did a few races together because he also jumped in 2007 to Formula Renault. And again he won straight away, the first year of the championship. It was pretty incredible. For me he was the biggest talent I saw in motor sport.

“And also when I raced back in 2009, my first time in F3, we were fighting against him because he was the man to beat that year and he won the championship with so many good drivers on the track and he won it really easily, just winning so many races. I think that shows how good he was.

“For me, to be honest, it’s really a shame that he was not able to really show in an F1 car what he was able to do, because he was the best driver I ever raced against, and it’s a shame what happened in Suzuka.”

Felipe Nasr

“You could see the guy was special”

“I met Jules in one occasion only where we shared a track in this go-kart race what Felipe does, or used to do, every year. It was really the first time I got in a conversation with him and you could see the guy was special. Not only as a person, for sure he had a good heart inside of him, but all his techniques, all the junior categories he’s been through, as people mentioned he was a real reference to all of us.

“Especially for me I was always a few years behind him because we didn’t have the same age but you could definitely see he had all the ingredients to be a very good driver and fight for something bigger in the future. I have a lot of respect for him, even though I didn’t know him so well, and I wish the best for his family as well.”

Nico Hulkenberg

“He was hungry for success”

“He’s been my team mate twice: in 2008 in Formula Three and 2012 in Formula One here. And I remember in 2008 I was in my second year in Formula Three, supposed to win the championship, but he came in as a rookie, his first year… I remember this race in Mugello, I was starting from pole and he was starting second or third. Anyway we take off, I’m leading, he’s second, and seeing him in my mirrors pushing really hard, chasing me down, trying to get me. He was burning his tyres at the time and I was saving them but anyway it just showed how competitive he was. He was hungry for success. Even outside the track he was a great guy, a lot of fun, a lot of great moments together. We will miss him.”

Romain Grosjean

“He was a much better driver in go-karts than I was”

“I cannot pick up a favourite memory because I’ve got too much with Jules.

“I think the first time I heard his name was back in 2003. He was a much better driver in go-karts than I was. He was a bit younger.

“Then he did follow up in all categories what I did, he won everywhere. I think we shared a lot with Jules.

“It was a very nice ceremony, it was very emotional. His parents were, I think, happy to see us. And of course this week all our thoughts go with him. Personally I will never forget that we raced and that we raced for Jules as well.”

Felipe Massa

“The best go-kart driver I saw”

“Jules, first of all, he was a great friend. I met him, he was still racing go-karts. We have the same manager: Nicolas [Todt] start to work with Jules, he was still at the end of his go-kart career. I met him at that time.

“For me he was a fantastic boy, very nice, very humble and amazing driver. Unfortunately in Formula One he didn’t have opportunity to race in a competitive car, to show his talent. I think he showed anyway by finishing in the points in Monaco with the car he was driving which everyone knows was like an amazing thing he did in that race.

“But for me the experience I had with Jules was also we did a lot of go-kart racing together even in Brazil. In my experience he was the best go-kart driver I saw. He was amazing the way he was driving go-karts. There was the opportunity for us to race together in the similar kart. It’s not nice to see what’s happened.”

Sergio Perez

“A very special driver but also a very special person”

“I met him when we were both doing GP2. But when I really spend more time with him was in the Ferrari Academy. You could say Jules was a very special driver but also a very special person that everyone seemed to like. I think he was just very humble and very human as well.

“He really left a big impact in the world as we all share the same opinion, I think Jules was a very special driver that didn’t have the opportunity to show what he could do in Formula One. I think that short period was just enough to realise that he was a potential champion for the future. He was just a very special driver and it’s very sad.

“Not to see him ever again, it really shocks you. It’s very, very hard for all of us and I’m sure not only for the drivers, for everyone who is involved in the sport, to lose someone. Because you know you could be there, it could be your family. I was talking the other day to his father and it’s just very difficult for the whole family. But his family is our family now and we really want to support them in any way because Jules will stay with us forever.

“I think what Jules did for the sport, he is just a great ambassador for us and he will always be in our hearts.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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8 comments on ““The best driver I ever raced against”: Bianchi’s rivals pay tribute to him”

  1. Such a shame. Heartbreaking really. It reminds me of a Marco Simoncceli story. Great talents but never had a chance to shine. A sad sad days….

  2. Adieu, Jules!

  3. Andy (@andybantam)
    23rd July 2015, 18:57

    Everyone says that he didn’t get the chance to shine. I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Scoring points with that bag of nails he was driving. I mean, wow! P9. Technically crossed the line P8, without the penalty applied – I think? Is that right? Anyway…

    He made light work of Max, so if you make a direct comparison of their performances, his talent shone brightly.

    I have always kept an eye on the plucky Manor/Marussia/Virgin team. I’m not sure why, they have always appealed to me. You got used to seeing the pattern of results they could achieve against the other ‘new’ teams with the resources they had. Recently, we saw that team look like it had made a step forward (pre-administration). Looking back now, I’m not sure they did make a step forward. What had happened is that the car was now in the hands of Jules Bianchi. The car didn’t improve, the calibre of driver did. Massively.

    I’m really going to miss him completely destroying Chilton every weekend, with the upmost respect to Max. Jules was fantastic to watch.

    I offer my sincerest condolences to his family, friends, colleagues and everyone who knew him. Sunday’s race will be heavy on the heart.

    RIP July’s Bianchi. A brightly shining star!


    1. Andy (@andybantam)
      23rd July 2015, 20:59

      Of course I meant “Jules”…

      Stupid phone…

      1. Of all the places the phone chose to autocorrect you too…

        1. Andy (@andybantam)
          24th July 2015, 11:56


          I know. What a fool I feel.

          It’s a new phone. The level of autocorrect on this phone is so deep, I’m seriously getting a little worried for the world of people who actually need it. All it does is mess things up

          Anyway, I’m deeply sorry for messing it up. How embarrassing.

    2. @andybantam Thank you for pretty much articulating pretty much what i wanted to say.

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