The family of Jules Bianchi has launched legal action against the FIA, Formula One Management and the driver’s former F1 team Marussia.
Stewarts Law, the UK’s largest litigation-only law firm, has taken on the case and sent formal pre-action letters to the three parties involved. The letters explain why the family feel the actions of one or more of those parties, among others, may have contributed to the accident in the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix that ultimately led to Bianchi’s death in July last year.
The F1 organizers and Marussia have been invited to accept that errors were made in the planning, timing, organization and conduct of a race it is claimed took place in dangerous conditions during the typhoon season in Japan.
Autosport attempts to answer some of the key questions behind the case.
Why has the Bianchi family waited so long to take legal action?
It is now almost 20 months since Bianchi was involved in the accident.
It is understood the Bianchi family have not taken this decision lightly, notably given the friendship that existed between their son and FIA president Jean Todt, whose own son Nicolas was Jules’ manager.
It is understood Jules’ father, Phillipe, only recently contacted the law firm connected with the case, and only upon receiving counsel, felt this was a necessary course of action to take.
What is the Bianchi family hoping to achieve?
The primary motivation is to gain an apology from all the parties contacted as it is their belief one has never been offered.
As clearly pointed out by Stewarts Law partner Julian Chamberlayne, they feel it unfair the FIA panel inquiry report predominantly blamed Bianchi for the accident, citing their surprise and distress at such an accusation.
They feel there were others responsible for his death.
The Bianchi family is more than willing to sit around a table with the FIA, FOM and the team to discuss the matter, and to take an apology there and then should it be forthcoming.
If not, then they are also more than willing to pursue the matter through the courts, and that makes the possibility of financial repercussions inevitable.
It is understood should there be any financial recompense then that money will go to the charitable organization set up by Bianchi’s parents in memory of their son, and which supports young and aspiring drivers.
What is the time frame for a potential resolution?
This is the first step in the process.
Much will now depend on the response from the FIA, FOM and the team, and their collective willingness to agree to the face-to-face meeting and avoid what would ultimately be a long legal battle.
What are the ramifications for Formula 1?
This is the first time F1’s governing body and the company that effectively controls F1 have been legally pursued regarding a driver’s death.
Should the Bianchi family be successful in their case, either settling in or out of court, it sets a precedent for the future.
The way would potentially be paved for drivers to sue over accidents and any injuries sustained.