PARIS: French Formula 1 driver Jules Bianchi has died, nine months after suffering severe head injuries in a crash at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.
The 25-year-old had been in a coma since crashing his Marussia car into a recovery vehicle in wet conditions in Suzuka last October.
His family said: “Jules fought right to the very end, as he always did, but today his battle came to an end.”
Marussia, now known as Manor, said the team was “devastated”.
Bianchi is the first F1 driver to die from injuries sustained in a Grand Prix since Brazilian triple world champion Ayrton Senna was killed at Italy’s Imola circuit in 1994.
Bianchi died in hospital near his parents’ home in Nice in the south of France.
His family said: “We thank Jules’s 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.
“Listening to and reading the many messages made us realise just how much Jules had touched the hearts and minds of so many people all over the world.”
Bianchi made his F1 debut with Marussia in 2013 and was also a member of the Ferrari young driver academy after previously working as a test driver for the team.
The Manor team tweeted : “We are devastated to lose Jules after such a hard-fought battle. It was a privilege to have him race for our team.”
The accident happened when Bianchi’s car slid off the track and into a crane picking up German driver Adrian Sutil, who had crashed at the same spot one lap earlier.
A working group of the sport’s governing body, the FIA, investigated the accident and found that as Bianchi went off the track into the run-off area, he “applied both throttle and brake together, using both feet” over-riding the fail-safe mechanism. His front wheels had also locked.
It also said that Bianchi “did not slow sufficiently to avoid losing control”.
The world of motorsport has been paying tribute to Bianchi.
McLaren’s Jenson Button posted on Twitter: “Last night we lost a truly great guy and a real fighter. RIP Jules, my sincerest condolences to his family and friends.”
Lotus driver Romain Grosjean said: “Yesterday we lost one of the best guys and best drivers I’ve ever met. I’ll miss you so much my friend.
Williams’ Valtteri Bottas paid tribute, saying: “Woke up to the very sad news. RIP Jules. You will be never forgotten. My thoughts are with the family.”
“No words can describe what his family and the sport have lost. All I can say it was a pleasure knowing and racing you,” tweeted British driver Max Chilton, who was Bianchi’s team-mate last year.
“Rest in peace dear Jules. We lost a great fighter today. All my thoughts are with you and your family,” tweeted endurance racer Andre Lotterer.