The Manor F1 Team arrive in Japan expecting an emotional weekend, a year on from Jules Bianchi’s horror crash that ultimately cost the likeable Frenchman his life.
Team Principal John Booth admits Bianchi is still firmly in the thoughts of the team as they head to Suzuka for the first time since that fateful day in the rain, and knows this will be a challenging weekend for everyone within the team, including drivers Will Stevens and Alexander Rossi, who were both reserve drivers to Bianchi and Max Chilton this time last year.
“After the high of a positive Singapore Grand Prix, we head to Japan hopeful of a similarly strong performance this weekend,” said Booth. “There will, however, be a rather more challenging backdrop for our team in Suzuka, after Jules’ devastating accident here last season.
“There is no escaping the fact that this will be an extremely emotional week for us. Many of the team members who were with us in 2014 are back with us this year, including our colleagues at Scuderia Ferrari and of course Will and Alexander, both of whom were in Suzuka last year in their roles as Reserve Drivers.”
Unlike the happier memories from the races in Monaco and Hungary from earlier in the season, Booth knows this weekend in Japan will be more difficult, but insists Bianchi will forever remain a part of the team.
“It will also be a different emotional experience again from Monaco, a place full of so many special memories for our team, and Hungary, where we all had to say a very difficult goodbye to a greatly-loved friend and colleague,” said Booth. “We think of Jules every single day; he will forever be a huge part of our team.
“Without doubt, our memories are overwhelmingly happy ones, celebrating his incredible achievements in our race cars and the enjoyable times we shared along the way. Jules’ funeral reminded us that he was a special gift to so many people, not least of all the magnificent Bianchi family, who are always in our thoughts and prayers.”
Booth has asked for privacy this weekend for his Manor F1 Team as they try to come to terms with what happened a year ago and the ultimately sad circumstances nine months later when Bianchi passed away in a Nice hospital.
“We were Jules’ team, and with that in mind I would ask everyone to understand and respect that, this weekend, we wish to deal with the experience of returning to Suzuka in a very private way,” said Booth.
“Our commitments will reflect this. It is my job to provide the team with the right environment in which to be able to do their job in spite of very difficult circumstances. This will be my primary focus.
“Jules has not only been constantly in our thoughts since that terrible day in 2014, but his name has also been on our car at every single race. That tribute, our incredibly fond memories of Jules and the camaraderie we have within our team are all we need to race on in his honour in Suzuka this weekend.”