Formula One: Family holds vigil at Bianchi's bedside

  • AFP, Yokkaichi, Japan
  • Updated: Oct 10, 2014 12:37 IST

The brother and sister of Formula One driver Jules Bianchi have joined their parents at his hospital bedside in Japan, where the Frenchman remains gravely injured following a horror crash at last week's rain-hit Japanese Grand Prix.

Tom and Melanie Bianchi arrived in Japan late Thursday and headed to the Mie General Medical Center in Yokkaichi, where their brother was taken after the high-speed smash that has triggered an outpouring of support and calls for improved safety in the glamour sport.

Lorenz Leclerc, a young man said to be Bianchi's best friend, joined his parents Philippe and Christine at the hospital earlier on Thursday. Bianchi's relatives, who were seen outside the hospital, have not spoken to reporters at the scene.

But in a statement earlier this week they acknowledged the severity of the 25-year-old's situation, saying he had "suffered a diffuse axonal injury and is in a critical but stable condition".

A diffuse axonal injury describes trauma that is spread across the brain, rather than in one place, and is caused by the shockwave from a sudden impact. Experts say recovery rates are not encouraging.

Bianchi was knocked unconscious in a sickening collision with a recovery tractor during Sunday's race at Suzuka, which began as scheduled but behind a safety car and with rain making conditions treacherous. Forecasts had warned of an approaching typhoon all week.

Formula One's ruling FIA has ordered an investigation into the crash to be supervised by its top race director Charlie Whiting.

Organisers have come in for criticism over both the timing of the race, which went ahead despite torrential downpours, and because a recovery vehicle was on a circuit run-off area, not behind a the tyre wall, without a safety car.

Sunday's race was halted shortly after Bianchi's accident with championship leader Lewis Hamilton, comfortably leading at the time, declared the winner.

The heavy-lifting vehicle was preparing to remove Adrian Sutil's stricken Sauber, which had crashed at the same spot on the circuit a lap earlier.

Bianchi's smash was captured on camera by a spectator, whose film showed the stomach-churning moment his Marussia ploughs into the recovery vehicle.

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso on Thursday added his voice to calls for Formula One to consider the introduction of closed cockpits, while Felipe Massa -- who survived terrible head injuries in an accident in Hungary in 2009 -- described the event as "the worst race of (his) life".

"It's hard to say in words and a shocking moment for everyone," added Sutil, who witnessed Bianchi's crash. "We just have to pray now -- and to hope. That is all we can do."

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