French Formula One driver Jules Bianchi has died from head injuries he suffered in a crash at last year’s Japanese Grand Prix, his family said on Saturday. Bianchi was 25.
"Jules fought right to the very end, as he always did, but today his battle came to an end," the Bianchi family said in a statement posted on Facebook, thanking staff at the hospital in the French city of Nice where he had been in a coma.
The news was posted on Bianchi's official Twitter feed and later confirmed by the Manor F1 team, for whom Bianchi had been driving.
Bianchi, 25, had been in a coma since the October 5 accident, in which he collided at high speed with a mobile crane which was being used to pick up another crashed car.
Bianchi competed in 34 races over the 2013 and 2014 seasons, scoring the first ever championship points for Manor - then known as Marussia - by finishing ninth at last year's Monaco Grand Prix.
We are devastated to lose Jules after such a hard-fought battle. It was a privilege to have him race for our team. https://t.co/USrDQbG7fZ— Manor F1 Team (@ManorF1Team) July 18, 2015
Bianchi died at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire in his hometown of Nice, where he had been since his emergency treatment in Japan in the days after the accident.
"We wish to thank the medical staff at Nice's CHU who looked after him with love and dedication," the family statement said. "We also thank the staff of the General Medical Center in the Mie Prefecture (Japan) who looked after Jules immediately after the accident, as well as all the other doctors who have been involved with his care over the past months.
"Furthermore, we thank Jules' colleagues, friends, fans and everyone who has demonstrated their affection for him over these past months, which gave us great strength and helped us deal with such difficult times."
Bianchi's accident occurred at the end of the race at Suzuka. In rainy, gloomy conditions, Bianchi's car slid off the track and ploughed into a crane picking up the Sauber of German driver Adrian Sutil, who had crashed out at the same spot one lap earlier.
The section of the track where the accident occurred was subject to double yellow flags from race stewards, due to Sutil's crash. But they failed to prevent a second accident.
The F1 track was not at a full-course caution at the time of Bianchi's crash. It was a ‘local yellow’ which calls for the drivers to slow down only in specified areas. Under a safety car in full-caution, the cars have to form a line behind the leading car and overtaking is not allowed.
The race was later red-flagged and declared over after 44 laps.
A working group of the sport's governing body, the FIA, investigated the accident and found that as Bianchi went off track into the run-off area, he "applied both throttle and brake together, using both feet" and thus over-riding the failsafe mechanism. His front wheels had also locked.
It also said that Bianchi "did not slow sufficiently to avoid losing control."
The findings of the working group prompted F1 to alter its rules, allowing a 'virtual safety car' in which race stewards can neutralize a race, forcing all cars to proceed slowly into the pit lane.
The start times of some races were also brought forward to prevent them continuing in dim light conditions.
Bianchi's family has already lost a member in a crash. In 1969, Bianchi's great-uncle, Lucien Bianchi, died in an accident during testing at the Le Mans race track when he crashed his Alfa Romeo into a post, a year after winning the prestigious endurance race.
The family statement was issued by his parents Philippe and Christine, his brother Tom and sister Melanie.
Bianchi is the first driver since Brazilian triple world champion Ayrton Senna, at Italy's Imola circuit in May 1994, to die from injuries sustained during a Grand Prix weekend.