French Formula One driver Jules Bianchi died Friday night from head injuries he suffered in a crash at last season’s Japanese Grand Prix, after spending nine months in a coma.
Bianchi, 25, had been fighting for his life under controlled medical conditions in the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire hospital in his home city of Nice, southern France.
Bianchi suffered a traumatic brain injury when his car careered off the rain-drenched Suzuka circuit during the Japanese Grand Prix on October 5 and smashed into a recovery truck at around 200 kilometres (125 miles) an hour.
He is the first Formula One driver to die from a racing accident since triple world champion Aryton Senna lost his life in San Marino in 1994.
“Jules fought right to the very end, as he always did, but today his battle came to an end,” the Bianchi family said in a statement posted on Facebook in the early hours of Saturday.
“The pain we feel is immense and indescribable.”
French President Francois Hollande paid tribute to the gifted Marussia driver.
“French motorsport has lost one of its greatest hopes,” Hollande commented in a statement.
Formula One supremo and the sport’s chief executive Bernie Ecclestone stated: “It was so sad to hear the news about Jules.
“We are now going to miss a very talented driver and a really nice person. We must not let this ever happen again.”
John Booth, team principal of Marussia, now called Manor F1, said: “Words cannot describe the enormous sadness within our team this morning, as we come to terms with losing Jules.
“He has left an indelible mark on all our lives, and will forever be part of everything we have achieved, and everything we will strive for going forward.”
The Bianchi family in their Saturday statement thanked “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” and asked for privacy.