A whirlwind of a quick vacation in Maine left me tired but happy as I drove home this past Monday. Quickly, however, the wind was knocked out of me with news that Jules Bianchi, a Formula 1 driver who had been comatose since a violent crash last year, died. He was about to turn 26. While the Formula 1 world held out the highest hopes for the Frenchman, the possibility of any recovery grew smaller and smaller as time passed.
His death is the first due to a Grand Prix incident since the three-time world champion Ayrton Senna was killed in 1994. Despite the incredible strides in safety over the past decades, motorsport remains a dangerous undertaking, and it's so incredibly easy to forget that.
In short, Jules was considered among the most talented drivers on the grid, and was a leading candidate for a race seat with Ferrari, one the most prestigious teams in the sport. More on him can be found on his Wikipedia page, as I'm not going to repeat what dozens of other articles have already covered.
I've only been following motorsport for about four years; in it, I've found a hobby, an obsession, and an outlet. In that short time, Formula 1 has remained my focus due to its nature: it's where the best of the best compete in the absolute, bar-none, fastest racing cars on the planet. I've spent considerable time pouring over its deep history and tradition, past seasons' summaries, and even technical specification sheets of cars despite my innate clumsiness with mechanical engineering.
The hard realist in me has always been whispering that Formula 1 is never going to be completely safe, or fair, or in any way perfect. While injuries and deaths occurred multiple times a year in decades long past, it wasn't something that I've actively experienced in the sport until I read the news on Monday. Needless to say, it left me reeling.
A major talent and all-around exemplary human being is gone before his time. It fucking sucks.
Since getting myself into better shape and becoming more active, I've noticed that I take more time these days to find positive perspectives in everything, no matter how much of a setback or disappointment they may be. As such, we can look at Jules Bianchi and see that his life was immensely well-lived, brief as it was. Since the age of three, Jules was racing, and he raced until the end. He found his passion and was steadfast in pursuing it, obstacles be damned. It's easy to wallow now in what might have been (and it would have been brilliant), but instead, we can find something incredibly inspirational in the racer we lost. It's exceedingly simple: find what you are good at, and do it. It's easy to lose focus over time in one's life and career, and to stray towards comfort and safety rather than what makes life richer and more fulfilling.
Coincidentally, my next "52 Week" photo project is number 17, the very number that adorned Jules' Formula 1 car. It's a project that's dear to me, as it's my first endeavor into motorsport photography, and a step closer to what I believe is my true calling. While Jules' death is crushing and achingly unfortunate, it's important to focus on his remarkable time here on Earth. It's important to remember that one's passions in life are crucial, no matter how dangerous or risky they seem at the time.
For me and many other Formula 1 fans around the world, our bouts of fervent inspiration and thirst for adventure will be inspired, in part, by Jules Bianchi. In that way, he'll never, ever be gone.
Image very kindly provided by James Moy, eminent Formula 1 photographer.