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Leclerc marks 10th anniversary of Bianchi accident with tribute F1 helmet

Ferrari Formula 1 driver Charles Leclerc is paying tribute to Jules Bianchi at the Japanese Grand Prix by wearing a helmet painted in the colours used by his late friend.

Helmet of Charles Leclerc, Ferrari

Photo by: Charles Leclerc

Bianchi suffered a serious accident in closing laps of the wet 2014 Japanese GP, and passed away in July the following year from his injuries.

He had acted as a mentor figure for Leclerc, with the Monegasque regarding Bianchi as a “game changer” in his career. Their families were and remain close.

Although the 2014 Suzuka event was held in October rather than April, the 2024 race marks the 10th anniversary of the Frenchman’s accident.

Leclerc has based his tribute helmet on the design used by Bianchi at Marussia in 2014, and it includes the latter's number 17, which was retired from use by the FIA.

“Of course it's a very special place, and whenever I get here I have somewhere in my mind Jules,” said Leclerc when asked by Autosport about the anniversary.

“I obviously think about Jules very often, because he's been the person that helped me to get there.

“Back in 2010 already he has spoken to Nicolas [Todt], my manager, in order for me to be supported to get to F1. And he's been the game changer in my career.

“And before that, we have always been extremely, extremely close, and both of our families are still always very close.

Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia F1 Team MR03.

Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia F1 Team MR03.

Photo by: Andre Vor / Sutton Images

“So it's a very special place to be here. I'll be having a helmet for him this weekend, and of course, as always, he's always in my heart, and it's going to be very important to do well this weekend.”

The two French drivers on the current grid also paid tribute to Bianchi at Suzuka on Thursday, with Esteban Ocon suggesting that he was a potential 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."

Ocon’s team-mate Pierre Gasly recalled Bianchi as someone who inspired young French drivers.

Jules Bianchi, Marussia MR03 Ferrari.

Jules Bianchi, Marussia MR03 Ferrari.

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

“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.”

Watch: F1 2024 Japanese Grand Prix Preview - Everything You Need To Know

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