Bianchi's race number 17 to be retired

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 20, 2015 11:00 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - Jules Bianchi's racing number 17 has been retired from use in Formula One following the French driver's death last week, the sport's governing body announced on Monday.

"As F1 car numbers are now personally chosen by each driver, the FIA believes it to be an appropriate gesture to retire Jules Bianchi's number 17," the International Automobile Federation (FIA) said on their website.

"As a result, this number can no longer be used for a car competing in the FIA Formula One World Championship."

Bianchi died in hospital nine months after he suffered severe head injuries in a Japanese Grand Prix accident when his Marussia crashed into a recovery tractor moving another car away from a tyre wall.

His funeral is in the southern French city of Nice on Tuesday, with Formula One then re-grouping in Hungary for the 10th race of the season on Sunday.

The 2014 season was the first after a rule change allowed drivers to choose their own numbers, and 17 was not Bianchi's first choice.

The Frenchman had preferred the numbers 7, 27 or 77 but all were taken by drivers ranked ahead of him according to the previous year's standings.

Since his accident, the #JB17 hashtag has become familiar on Twitter as an expression of support and affection for the popular driver.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Mitch Phillips.)