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Formula One: Gifted Bianchi - born to race

Formula One: Gifted Bianchi - born to race
The gifted 25-year-old passed away Friday night in a hospital in his hometown of Nice from head injuries sustained in the October 5 accident in Suzuka. -EPA/VALDRIN XHEMAJ
PARIS: Jules Bianchi, who has died nine months after his horror crash at last season's Japanese Grand Prix, came from a family steeped in rich motorsport tradition but also scarred by tragedy.

The gifted 25-year-old passed away Friday night in a hospital in his hometown of Nice from head injuries sustained in the October 5 accident in Suzuka.

Bianchi was tipped by many to be the next great French champion.

He made his Formula One debut in 2013 with the Russian team Marussia after stints as a test driver with Ferrari and Force India.
He was following in the footsteps of previous racers in the Bianchi family.

Born in the Cote d'Azur city of Nice in 1989, he grew up in a family that originated from Milan but left Italy in 1950 before moving on to Belgium and finally France.
His grandfather Mauro, was a renowned F3 driver, a three-time world champion in GT cars, notably with Alpine-Renault, and one of the great stars of motorsport during the 1960's.

However Jules' accident brought back dramatic memories of the fate suffered by his great-uncle Lucien.

He took part in 17 Formula One races, finished third at the 1968 Monaco Grand Prix and won the Le Mans 24-hours endurance race later that season.

One year later, at the wheel of an Alfa Romeo, Lucien Bianchi crashed during Le Mans testing and was killed at the age of 34 when his vehicle burst into flames. 

Jules' father Philippe was a specialist in kart racing and introduced his son to the sport at the Brignoles track in the Var region.

After steadily climbing through the ranks in motorsport, the young Bianchi joined the Ferrari Driver Academy in 2009 before graduating to Formula 3 and then two seasons in GP2 where he finished third in the championship standings in 2010 and 2011.

In 2012, he was again battling for the championship after switching to the Formula Renault 3.5 Series, and only lost the title in the final race of the season after a controversial collision with Dutch driver Robin Frijns.

The newly-formed Russian team Marussia recognised Bianchi's growing potential and handed him a F1 drive for the 2013 season, where he outperformed his teammate Max Chilton all season, with a best finish of 13th at Malaysia in only his second GP.

A slow start to the 2014 campaign burst into life on the streets of Monaco in May where he gave the team their first F1 points with a ninth place finish, despite driving one of the slowest cars on the grid.

'Ready' for Ferrari

The rise of Jules Bianchi was in full flight and just three days before fate cruelly intervened in Japan, he had declared himself "ready" to be one of the two drivers at the Ferrari stable he knows so well from his days as a test driver.

"Of course, I feel ready and I have been working on that since I joined the (Ferrari) Academy in 2009." Bianchi had said at Suzuka.

"I have had two seasons in Formula One, I have good experience and I feel ready for that." said Bianchi. 

"If the opportunity presents itself, I think it would be good for me and I feel good." 

First-choice driver with Marussia and test driver with Ferrari, the future looked extremely bright for Bianchi, a driver with all the qualities of a champion in the making.

But fate cruelly intervened, the young Frenchman becoming the first driver to perish in a race since Ayrton Senna died at the wheel of his Williams in 1994 in San Marino.