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Jules Bianchi: Formula 1 bids farewell at driver's funeral

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Media captionJules Bianchi 'fought to the very end', his family said in a statement

The world of motorsport has bid farewell to French Formula 1 driver Jules Bianchi at his funeral in his hometown of Nice.

World champion Lewis Hamilton and many of Bianchi's colleagues joined family and friends at a service in the city's cathedral while fans gathered outside.

The 25-year-old died on Friday from head injuries he sustained in a crash at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.

His car number, 17, is being retired from F1 in his honour.

Bianchi had been in a coma since crashing his Marussia car into a recovery vehicle at a rain-hit race last October.

He is the first F1 driver to die from injuries sustained in a grand prix since Brazilian triple world champion Ayrton Senna was killed at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994.

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Image caption Large posters of Bianchi were draped outside the cathedral entrance
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Image caption German F1 driver Sebastian Vettel (left) and France's Romain Grosjean helped carry the coffin during the funeral

Tributes are expected to be paid at the Hungarian Grand Prix this weekend.

A number of Formula 1 colleagues travelled to Nice to pay their respects on Tuesday. Large posters of Bianchi were draped outside the cathedral entrance.

Sebastian Vettel, the four-time world champion, and F1 Lotus driver and fellow Frenchman Romain Grosjean helped carry Bianchi's coffin after the service.

Other drivers attending included Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa, and Olivier Panis.

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Image caption British Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton described Bianchi's death as a 'sad, sad day'
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Image caption Motorsport's governing body, the FIA, is to remove the number 17 from the list of those available for F1 drivers to choose from

The Eagles' 1970s anthem Hotel California played in the background as the proceedings got under way earlier in Nice, according to AFP news agency.

The cathedral priest, Father Sylvain Brison Mourners, told the congregation that Bianchi was "a champion blessed with a rare talent", and mourners applauded the late driver for several minutes.

'Real fighter'

Announcing his death on Saturday, Bianchi's family said: "Jules fought right to the very end, as he always did, but today his battle came to an end."

Former world champion Jenson Button led tributes from the world of motorsport.

"Last night we lost a truly great guy and a real fighter. RIP Jules, my sincerest condolences to his family and friends," the McLaren driver said on Saturday.

The Marussia team, now known as Manor, said Bianchi had left an "indelible mark on all our lives".


Read more on Bianchi's death

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The accident happened when Bianchi's car slid off the wet Suzuka track and into a crane picking up the Sauber of German driver Adrian Sutil, who had crashed at the same spot one lap earlier.

He suffered massive head injuries and was treated in intensive care in Japan before being transferred to a hospital in Nice in November.

The 25-year-old competed in 34 races during the 2013 and 2014 seasons, scoring the first-ever championship points for the Manor-Marussia team by finishing ninth at last year's Monaco Grand Prix.

He is the latest driver to die as a result of a F1 racing accident.

F1 test driver Maria De Villota died in 2013 as a consequence of injuries she suffered 15 months earlier in a crash while testing for Marussia in Cambridgeshire in the UK.

Brazilian motor-racing legend Ayrton Senna was killed when his car ran wide at a curve and crashed into a concrete wall at the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, near Bologna in Italy, in 1994.

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Image caption Bianchi's father Philippe comforted by relatives before the funeral at Nice cathedral
Image copyright AP
Image caption Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg of Germany stands next to floral tributes outside the cathedral

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