The Federation Internationale de l’Automobile today announced that it is to retire the #17 from the driver number selection in honour of Jules Bianchi, whose driver number was 17.
The 25-year-old Frenchman lost his fight for life on Sunday morning, nine months after sustaining massive head injuries in a freak accident at the Japanese Grand Prix last year. Although breathing unaided, he never regained consciousness.
Bianchi chose the number 17 as his driver number when the FIA introduced permanent driver numbers at the beginning of the 2014 season. Today’s announcement means the number 17 will always belong to Jules Bianchi, the first driver to lose his life on track since Ayrton Senna 21 years ago.
Among the tributes paid to Bianchi since the news of his death emerged was former Ferrari chairman Luca di Montazemelo who confirmed that the Scuderia had planned to replace Kimi Raikkonen with Bianchi, once the Finn World Champion retired. Bianchi had been a Ferrari academy member and test drove for them several times, most recently at Silverstone in July of last year.
Bianchi’s funeral will be held on Tuesday in Nice, France.