In lieu of the upcoming Formula 1 (F1) season, this week’s Hall of Fame features former F1 driver Jules Bianchi, who sported the No. 17 on his car during the 2014 season. His death stemming from the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix remains the most recent fatality of an F1 driver due to an on-track accident since Ayrton Senna’s passing, caused by a crash in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
On the afternoon of Oct. 5, 2014, Bianchi was driving around the rain-soaked Suzuka Circuit when Sauber’s Adrian Sutil slid off the track and crashed. After Sutil left his stricken car, a recovery crane drove over to pick up the car and move it off the course. With yellow caution flags waving, all cars on the track were required to slow down. However, Bianchi didn’t slow down enough. As he approached Sutil’s wreck, the Marussia driver lost control of his car and slipped on standing water. Travelling at nearly 80 mph, his MR03 careened into the rear underside of the crane, catastrophically destroying the car. The impact ripped off its anti-roll structure and severely injured the Frenchman’s head, rendering him unconscious.
After months of intensive care hospitalization, he succumbed to his injuries nine months later on July 17, 2015. Bianchi was 25. The governing body of F1, the FIA, subsequently retired the No. 17 in his honor.
His tragedy shows that despite F1’s increased safety measures, accidents do happen and drivers’ lives are not something to take for granted.