Charles Leclerc pays tribute to Jules Bianchi with unique helmet for Japan

Charles Leclerc pays tribute to Jules Bianchi with unique helmet for Japan

Charles Leclerc will be sporting a unique helmet for the Japanese Grand Prix in commemoration of the tenth anniversary since Jules Bianchi’s unfortunate tragedy at Suzuka.

Ferrari F1 driver Charles Leclerc is honoring his late friend Jules Bianchi by sporting a special helmet for this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, featuring the colours which the latter used before losing his life in a racing incident a decade ago.

Bianchi’s car collided with a rescue vehicle after sliding off the track in wet conditions during the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, resulting in severe injuries. He was put into an induced coma and had emergency surgery, but the injuries he sustained ultimately led to his demise in July of 2015.

Before his untimely death, the Frenchman had mentored his godson Leclerc, who credited him as a “gamechanger” in his ascent to F1.

Ahead of Formula One’s return to Suzuka this weekend, Leclerc revealed a tribute helmet design honoring Bianchi, which features his No. 17, which was retired by the FIA following his death. This October marks ten years since the tragic incident.

Leclerc acknowledged the impact of Bianchi on his career during an interview in Japan, and additionally revealed that he had consulted with Bianchi’s family before moving forward with his intentions to design a tribute helmet.

“Of course it’s a very special place, and whenever I get here I have somewhere in my mind Jules,” said Leclerc. “I obviously think about Jules very often, because he was the person that helped me to get here.

“Back in 2010 already, he had spoken to Nicholas [Todt], my manager, in order for me to be supported to get to Formula 1 and he’s been the gamechanger in my career.

“Before that we were always extremely, extremely close and both of our families are still always very close. So it’s a very special place to be here. Of course, as always, he’s always in my heart and it’s going to be very important to do well this weekend.

“Once you put on the helmet, obviously I’ve got to think about whatever is going on on the track, but obviously it was a very important sign for me to do here.

“I had spoken with the family. We are always in contact and we always speak because it’s basically the same family.

“We’ve always been extremely close and they were so, so happy that I had asked to use the helmet, so I’m really happy.

“Obviously, Jules is still there and needs to be remembered. If I’m here today in Formula 1, it’s thanks to him. So it was important for me to wear this helmet and I hope I can have a great weekend.”

Leclerc has honored Bianchi previously through his helmet design. At the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix, Leclerc sported a helmet with images honoring both Bianchi and his own father, Herve.

The two French drivers on the current grid also honored Bianchi at Suzuka on Thursday, with Esteban Ocon suggesting that he could have been a world champion.

“A tragic day,” said Ocon when asked for his memories. “I think what has happened to Jules is something we are all sad about.

“Jules represented for us the hope of French motorsport. He was the young guy coming, and he was for sure going to be successful, and most probably champion at some stage. That’s the way we were seeing him coming.

“And even more than that, for me having driven in Brignoles [kart circuit] a lot, seeing him driving, being with Charles when we were younger, it is obviously sad to come here and remembering him.

“But we obviously need to go on racing, that’s what he would have done, and that’s what we will do.”

Pierre Gasly also paid tribute to Bianchi, acknowledging the assistance he provided to his countrymen in their pursuit of success in the sport.

“Definitely Jules will always be remembered for who he was I think,” said Gasly. “Obviously as a driver, but also just as a human being, he was extremely kind. He was an example for a lot of drivers, but especially in France.

“I remember when were in the French team, like all young drivers, with Anthoine [Hubert], Esteban and many other young kids, we obviously looked up to him as the next big thing in F1, because everyone I think agrees that he would eventually make it to Ferrari.

“It’s definitely very, very sad to remember what happened. He definitely left his mark in F1, and also beyond it, and I will definitely be always remembering him.”

Bianchi passed away on July 17, 2015 at the age of 25 and was the first driver to succumb to injuries suffered during a Grand Prix since Ayrton Senna in 1994.

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