Out of respect for Jules Bianchi, Marussia will run only one car at Russian Grand Prix

Nico Rosberg edged Mercedes teammate and Formula One championship leader Lewis Hamilton in Friday’s morning practice for the inaugural Russian Grand Prix.

Marussia will run just one car at this weekend's Russian Grand Prix out of respect for Jules Bianchi as the Frenchman remains gravely injured following a horror crash at last week's rain-hit Japanese Grand Prix. AFP PHOTO / DIMITAR DILKOFF
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Marussia have confirmed they are to run only one car throughout this weekend’s inaugural Russian Grand Prix as a mark of respect for the critically-injured Jules Bianchi.

On Thursday, Marussia confirmed American reserve Alexander Rossi was eligible for the race as a potential replacement for Bianchi, who was involved in a horrific crash in Sunday’s rain-hit event in Japan.

Despite commercial considerations, with the team aiming to protect their ninth place in this year’s constructors’ championship, Marussia have decided only Max Chilton will drive at the Sochi Autodrom.

Although the team readied a second car, it will remain unused in the garage over the weekend, and with Bianchi’s name over the entrance.

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone confirmed to Press Association Sport on Thursday Marussia would not be sanctioned or penalised for only running one car.

A team statement read: “The Marussia F1 Team will run a single car for the duration of the forthcoming grand prix weekend in Sochi out of respect for their driver Jules Bianchi, who remains in hospital in Yokkaichi, Japan, in a critical but stable condition.

“The team have written to the stewards of the meeting to inform them they have withdrawn their second car.

“Notwithstanding the presence in Sochi of Alexander Rossi, the nominated official reserve driver for the 2014 Russian Grand Prix, the team feels strongly that fielding a single car, that of driver number 4, Max Chilton, is the appropriate course of action under the difficult circumstances of the weekend.

“Jules’ car crew have built a second car, which has been scrutineered and is ready to race, and this will remain on his side of the garage throughout the weekend.

“In support of Jules and his family, the team and their cars will carry the familiar ‘#JB17’ graphic, to ensure that although Jules is not with them in Sochi this weekend, he is, nonetheless, racing on with the Marussia F1 Team.”

Bianchi underwent emergency brain surgery on Sunday evening after his crash at the Mie General Medical Centre in Yokkaichi.

The 25-year-old Frenchman smashed into a recovery vehicle at Suzuka that was removing the wrecked Sauber of Adrian Sutil after the German hurtled off track into a tyre barrier.

Bianchi has been diagnosed with a diffuse axonal injury to the brain whereby damage is widespread rather than localised in one particular area.

The prognosis is not good as such injuries often result in coma, and if severe, 90 per cent of patients never regain consciousness.

The incident has left the entire paddock in shock, with drivers such as Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso - both of whom visited Bianchi in hospital - clearly emotional as they spoke about their colleague.

The 21 drivers on track will carry the message ‘Tous avec Jules’ (All with Jules) on their helmets, along with his race number of 17.

As for Chilton, he has now broken his silence over the accident involving his team-mate.

The 23-year-old Briton said: “I don’t know how to put into words how truly devastated I am by what has happened to Jules.

“The support from the F1 family has been incredible and all we can do is be there to support Jules’ family at this difficult time.

“It is going to be a very emotional weekend for the whole team, but we will try to get through it and keep praying for Jules.”

Jules Bianchi remains in critical condition

The father of Jules Bianchi says the Formula One driver remains in critical condition following his crash at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Bianchi’s father, Philippe, is at his son’s bedside at Mie General Medical Center in Japan.

Philippe Bianchi told local newspaper Nice Matin that “Jules is fighting as he always did, the same way as if he was racing. He is strong.”

The 25-year-old Bianchi needed emergency surgery last week for a severe head injury after crashing into a mobile crane that was beside the track recovering another car which had run off the circuit at the same corner a lap earlier.

To honor Bianchi, Marussia is not running his car at this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.

Mercedes pair fastest in first Russian GP practice

Nico Rosberg edged Mercedes teammate and Formula One championship leader Lewis Hamilton in Friday’s morning practice for the inaugural Russian Grand Prix.

The Mercedes pair has dominated all season, and was again firmly in control despite an unfamiliar track making its debut.

Rosberg’s fastest lap on the Sochi Autodrom was 1 minute, 42.311 seconds; 0.065 seconds ahead of Hamilton.

Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen of McLaren were third and fifth fastest respectively, split by Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.

The new circuit is built around the Olympic Park, used for the Winter Olympics in February.

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