Max Chilton has dedicated the first Indy Lights victory of his career to former Marussia team-mate Jules Bianchi.
Bianchi died on Friday night after he succumbed to the devastating brain injuries he sustained in a crash at the Japanese Grand Prix last October.
The Frenchman was in his second Formula 1 season with Marussia when the accident happened in Suzuka. Chilton, 24, had been his team-mate at the British-based team, founded by Rotherham’s John Booth at Dinnington, for both campaigns.
Chilton, who learned of Bianchi’s death on Friday, took to the Iowa Speedway the following day and claimed the first Indy Lights pole of his career before going on to seal his maiden win.
“It’s been a difficult nine months, to be brutally honest with you,” said Chilton, who led 87 of the 100 laps in Iowa. “I’ve learned a lot from him, and he was part of that win. I probably thought of him every five or 10 laps, because he was a driver destined to probably be a world champion. I’m dedicating this to Jules.”
Bianchi, who never regained conciousness in the nine months after his crash at the rain-lashed race in Japan, was expected to race for Ferrari at some stage in his career after signing to their driver academy in 2009. His raw speed and likeable persona left a lasting impression on the paddock.
Chilton rose through the junior ranks alongside the Frenchman.
They competed together in karting before they were both handed their chance by Marussia for the season-opening race in Australia in 2013.
Bianchi was hailed as “one of the most talented drivers of his generation” by Formula 1’s governing body.
Bianchi, whose grandfather Mauro and great-uncle Lucien competed in professional motorsport – became the first F1 driver since Ayrton Senna in 1994 to die as a result of injuries sustained during a grand prix weekend.
“Words cannot describe the enormous sadness within our team, as we come to terms with losing Jules,’’ said Marussia team principal Booth.