Japanese Grand Prix: Charles Leclerc expects 'difficult weekend' because of Jules Bianchi memories

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Jules Bianchi
Jules Bianchi suffered severe head injuries in a crash at the 2014 Japanese GP and died in July 2015

Sauber driver Charles Leclerc says he is expecting "a very difficult weekend" at the Japanese Grand Prix because of memories of Jules Bianchi.

Leclerc is the godson of Bianchi, who died nine months after sustaining head injuries in a crash in the 2014 race.

The 20-year-old stopped on his track walk on Thursday at the spot at Dunlop corner where Bianchi crashed.

"I never came to Japan before. The track walk was quite emotional," said Leclerc.

"But on the other hand I really need to focus on this weekend to try to do the best job possible anyway.

"It's obviously a very difficult weekend. Jules has helped me massively to arrive here, more than only on the racing side. He was a bit like part of the family."

Leclerc said he had been considering using a tribute helmet at the race but had been prevented from doing so by a rule that dictates drivers can only change their helmet design once in a season. He has already do so this season as a one-off at his home race in Monaco.

But he said he was considering having a special helmet next year, when he will drive for Ferrari, with tributes to both his late father, who died last year, and Bianchi.

"I'm definitely thinking about something for next year, about a helmet, but you know there is this rule where you can only run one special helmet," said Leclerc.

"This year I did it for my father, next year I have an idea of doing something, a helmet split on both sides - one for Jules, one for my father.

"For this year I will have nothing more special than trying to make him remembered as much as I can to the public."

Pierre Gasly
Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly laid a tribute to his childhood friend Jules Bianchi on Thursday

How to follow on BBC Sport

BBC Sport has live coverage of all the season's races on BBC Radio 5 live and BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, plus live online commentary on the BBC Sport website and mobile app - including audience interaction, expert analysis, debate, voting, features, interviews and video content.

All times BST and are subject to change at short notice.

Japanese Grand Prix coverage details
DateSessionTimeRadio coverageOnline text commentary
Thursday, 4 OctoberPreview20:30-21:00
Friday, 5 OctoberFirst practice01:55-03:35BBC Radio 5 live sports extraFrom 01:30
Second practice05:55-07:35BBC Radio 5 live sports extraFrom 05:30
Saturday, 6 OctoberFinal practice03:55-05:05BBC Radio 5 live sports extraFrom 03:30 (continuous)
Qualifying06:55-08:05BBC Radio 5 live sports extra
Sunday, 7 OctoberRace06:00-08:00BBC Radio 5 liveFrom 04:30
Monday, 8 OctoberReview04:30-05:00BBC Radio 5 live

Top Stories

Explore the BBC