Formula 1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone said the family of Jules Bianchi “will do what they have to do” with regard to legal action over their son’s death.
Almost 20 months after Bianchi’s accident in the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, the family has decided to pursue a case against the Formula One Group of companies, the FIA, and Marussia. The FIA has so far declined to comment.
Bianchi suffered a diffuse axonal injury to the brain after colliding with a recovery vehicle during a wet race at the Suzuka circuit. He was in a coma for nine months before he died.
Letters have been issued to all three parties by UK-based litigation-only law firm Stewarts Law outlining the case. The family is seeking an apology from all those contacted as it is their contention one was never offered, and that Bianchi was unfairly blamed in the FIA inquiry panel’s report into their son’s death.
They believe others should be held accountable, and are willing to pursue the matter through the courts should the respondents decline the opportunity to apologize.
One complication is that since the accident the Marussia team is now in the hands of new owners, with Stephen Fitzpatrick taking up the reins of what is now Manor in February 2015 after it was placed into administration in late October ’14.
Marussia’s former sporting director Graeme Lowdon told Autosport: “I have said in the past that I have always been, and always will be, very supportive of the Bianchi family.”
While this is the first case where the family of a deceased driver has chosen to pursue the FIA and the Formula One Group, there is a precedent where other companies were found liable for an F1 accident that resulted in a death.
In 1975, Mark Donohue was killed during practice for the Austrian Grand Prix after the left-front tire blew on his Penske car. Claiming negligence, the family successfully sued tire supplier Goodyear and the Penske team, receiving a $9.6 million settlement after the initial ruling went to appeal in U.S. courts. The case took just under 11 years to settle, however.