Priorities change fast for Booth as Marussia retire Bianchi’s car

John Booth has put his responsibilities as Marussia team principal on hold to stay by the side of Jules Bianchi as the French driver fights for his life.

Marussia driver Jules Bianchi at Suzuka last week.

Yorkshireman Booth has stayed in Japan to support 
Bianchi, who was critically injured in a crash at last Sunday’s grand prix at Suzuka.

Booth was prominent in the team’s decision to retire Bianchi’s car for this weekend’s inaugural Russian Grand Prix.

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But he opted to maintain his bedside vigil at the side of Bianchi’s parents Philippe and Christine rather than take charge of the team in Sochi.

Bianchi remains in a critical condition after sustaining severe injuries to his brain which required immediate surgery.

Booth, talking last night to The Yorkshire Post, was clearly shaken by an incident that has rocked Formula 1.

“It’s been a tough week but nothing like how tough it’s been for Jules’s parents and his family,” said Booth, 59.

“I’ve stayed in Japan and left Graeme (Lowdon, Marussia’s chief executive officer) to take charge of the team. I’ve been to the hospital every day and I’ll stay on another three or four days.

“There’s no real update, other than he’s still critical.”

The Russian Grand prix is a race that has extra importance for the team Booth started in Rotherham because it is Marussia’s first home grand prix.

But when it came to deciding whether to replace Bianchi with a reserve driver – Alexander Rossi was on standby as of Thursday – or retire the car, Booth and his team stressed that it was the appropriate course of action under the circumstances.

“It was a decision we thought long and hard over,” said Booth.

“We consulted with Jules’s family before we took the decision.

“We have had to go slightly outside FIA regulations but the FIA have been very supportive.”

Booth and his team are unable to comment on the nature of last week’s crash at Suzuka due to the ongoing investigation.

But he says he has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for Bianchi from the wider motor racing and sporting communities.

“The support thoughout the paddock and the motor racing world has been incredible,” continued Booth.

“I’m not on social media but apparently that has been overwhelming and really appreciated by everyone.

“Jules is such a popular lad.”

Booth’s sentiments were echoed by Lowden, who said yesterday in Sochi: “It’s been an incredibly difficult week for Formula 1, but also an incredibly difficult week for our team.

“Jules had a terrible accident at Suzuka, he’s in hospital there and he’s in a critical condition.

“Everybody in the team, and I know much wider than that, are with Jules at this moment, and also with his family.

“So it has been a really difficult time for the team, but I have to say we have been helped enormously by the Formula 1 family.

“It would have really difficult for us to get through this week without the help of some very key people.

“I’d like to thank (Ferrari team principal) Marco Mattiacci for his support and kindness, not just in his role at Ferrari, but personally as well.

“He was at the hospital immediately afterwards and provided an awful lot of comfort to the people there.”

Lowdon also cited F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone’s involvement, notably with regard to the decision in running only one car this weekend.

“The main thing we wanted to do was something useful and supportive – as much as we can – for Jules and his family. That was our primary objective,” added Lowdon.

“But we are also lying ninth in the world championship and we’re largely in that position because of Jules.

“He is a racing driver and he would want us to do the best we can, so we thought the right thing to do was to come here and take part in the event.

“We found it was something we could do. It’s also been useful for the people in our team because they want to give an expression of support for Jules.

“So I hope people understand what we’ve done and why we’ve done it, and even if it makes a small difference, it makes a difference in the right place.

“I have to say we did seek opinion from a lot of people to ensure we made the right decision, and on a personal note I cannot speak too highly of the support myself and the team have received from Bernie.

“In these situations it’s incredibly reassuring to know people care, and if I can sum up the support we’ve had from Bernie, it’s that he cares.

“It has been extremely valuable and useful.”

Rosberg plays safe in pursuit of Hamilton

NICO ROSBERG is to switch back to a conservative approach after admitting to an attempt at creativity that failed ahead of this weekend’s inaugural Russian Grand Prix.

Looking for any edge he can gain over Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in their battle for this year’s Formula 1 world title, Rosberg tried something different in the second practice session in Sochi.

After finishing just 0.065secs quicker than Hamilton at the end of the first run, Rosberg ended the second almost a second down on the 29-year-old Briton.

That left Rosberg fourth on the timesheet after the first day of running at F1’s newest venue, set in the Olympic Park that was at the heart of the Winter Games earlier this year.

Rosberg said: “The team decided to go two different ways in terms of set-up. I took a very creative set-up for my car in the second session, which didn’t work out.

“So we will go back to the conservative way (for today), because we saw Lewis was very quick with that.”

Hamilton, who holds a 10-point lead over Rosberg after a run of three successive victories, immediately appeared at home on the track.

A happy Hamilton said: “I like the new circuit. It’s got really good grip and great corners, with a lot at medium speed. It’s good fun.”