Father of stricken F1 star Jules Bianchi 'less optimistic' of recovery
Jules Bianchi's father is becoming "less optimistic" of the former Marussia Formula One driver recovering from life-threatening injuries.
The 25-year-old Frenchman was left in a coma after suffering head injuries during last October's Japanese Grand Prix, when his car slid off the track in wet conditions and struck a recovery vehicle attending a previous crash.
He has yet to regain consciousness and his father has spoken of the "daily torture" of waiting for signs of progress.
"It's impossible," Philippe Bianchi told radio station France Info.
"You sometimes feel like you are going mad. For me, it is more terrible than if he had died in the accident because we have no power to help him more.
"Generally, progress must be made in the first six months. It has been nine months and Jules has not woken up and there has been no significant progress.
"It is hard to get up in the morning when you are not sure if your son will live and when every day is like that.
"Time passes and I am less optimistic than I was two or three months after the accident, when we could hope for better progress."
Occasionally feeling that his son's hand tightens on his own, Bianchi Sr is not sure if the sensation is real or imagined - acknowledging that "in this situation, you cling on to anything", but adding that "you have to understand the gravity of the situation".
Even if his son should recover consciousness, though, he admits that will only be the beginning of a new pain.
"You have a son who lives with passion, who travels around all the countries of the world, and overnight he ends up in a hospital bed in between life and death," he said.
"If he had a severe handicap, we are convinced that is not what Jules would want.
"We talked about it. He discussed with us that if one day he had an accident like that of Michael Schumacher, that even if his only handicap was not being able to drive, he would have a lot of difficulty living. Because it was his life."
Seven-times world champion Schumacher spent over five months in an induced coma after suffering severe head injuries in a skiing accident in December 2013. He eventually recovered sufficiently to leave hospital and return to his family home on the shores of Lake Geneva.
The Bianchi family have been inundated with messages of support on social media, many using the hashtag 'ForzaJules'.
And Philippe Bianchi - who has the phrase tattooed on his forearm - said: "We are sorry we cannot reply to everyone, but we have received their wishes. That gives us enormous strength and it certainly gives Jules enormous strength."
Jules Bianchi drove in 34 grands prix for Marussia across the 2013 and 2014 F1 seasons, with his best result a ninth-placed finish at Monaco in the latter year which earned him two World Championship points.