Following the tragic death of their colleague Jules Bianchi, Formula One’s drivers are united by one wish here at the Hungaroring: to honour him and his family as they race on Sunday afternoon in the Hungarian Grand Prix.
But Lewis Hamilton summed up the way in which they will tackle the weekend. “I won’t be approaching it any differently after Jules’ death. For me, when I get in the car on Friday morning, nothing will be different.”
Triple world champion Jackie Stewart calls it “mind management”. The world might expect shows of emotion – as well as the displays of respect that will feature – but that’s not how it works.
Stewart raced in the sport’s most dangerous era, when he admits that one night he and his wife, Helen, stopped counting the friends they had lost when they got to 50. At Monza in 1970, as he took Ken Tyrrell’s March out for his final practice run, the Scot was the only man truly aware that his very close friend Jochen Rindt had actually died earlier in a violent accident.
“I was crying as I got into the car and as I went down the pit lane,” he remembers, “but when the visor came down the tears stopped. On my out lap I looked across at the spot at the Parabolica where Jochen crashed, and made my peace with it. After that I did the two best laps I did all weekend. But as I drove back into the pits the first thing I tasted was salt, as the tears came again.”
Another former champion, American Phil Hill, once said of accidents: “When I see one I put my foot down harder, because I know that others might be lifting off.”
For drivers, it cannot be any other way, even if, for many of those on the grid on Sunday, Bianchi’s death following his crash in last year’s Japanese Grand Prix has been their first experience of the sport’s dark side. But not Hamilton.
“I won the race at Kimbolton when I was only nine in which a kid died, so last week has been déjà vu for me,” he said. Daniel Spence, the son of the late John Button’s friend Dave Spence, died of a punctured lung after his kart had overturned at the track in December 1994. “I went to the funeral,” Hamilton added, “and it was just as sad and difficult as it was at Jules’ last week, so it’s not as if I haven’t been there before. It’s a reminder of just how dangerous our sport is.
“I wasn’t affected by Jules’ accident when we were in Russia last year, because you are in the zone and you are purely focused on your driving. The adrenalin takes over.”
Williams’ Felipe Massa, who suffered a very serious head injury in qualifying here in 2009, explained the driver’s psyche further, saying: “When you close your visor you want to finish in front, and you want to do the best that you can in every manoeuvre, overtaking, the way you drive, your thinking.
“After I had my accident here, when I started driving again here in Hungary, always when I passed that place I don’t remember that I had the accident there. So, you don’t think about it, it stays in the past.
“Maybe when you get out of the car you remember about Jules or about other things. But when I’m driving… I don’t even think I have a mother, father, son or wife, or whatever. You don’t think about that, you just think about your job. I don’t think that will change here. But right now I have Jules all the time on my mind.”Reuse content