Forza, Jules: Bianchi’s Off The Grid interview with Will Buxton (VIDEO)

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When Marussia driver Jules Bianchi sat down to be interviewed this past July for an episode of NBCSN’s “Off The Grid,” he was coming off his biggest moment to date in Formula One.

Back in May, Bianchi, a member of Ferrari’s Driver Academy and a potential future pilot for the Scuderia, had delivered a fabulous drive in Monaco to finish ninth and give Marussia its first-ever World Championship points.

The result was a breakthrough for Marussia and for Bianchi, who had once regarded attaining a chance to race in F1 as almost impossible.

“I didn’t really think about [that] until I came to single-seater, because in go-karts, you’re so far away from Formula One that you – I could not even imagine that I would be a Formula One driver,” he said to NBCSN’s Will Buxton.

Bianchi persevered and eventually worked his way up the F1 ladder until reaching the top level – first as a tester for Ferrari and Force India, and then as a full-fledged racer for Marussia starting in 2013. There, Bianchi has shown enough potential to be regarded as a possible star in the years ahead.

But now, the Frenchman is in a battle for his life after his crash in Saturday night’s Japanese Grand Prix. The racing world hopes and prays for his recovery, and we certainly are doing the same.

You can watch an extended cut of Bianchi’s interview – an insightful look into his upbringing, his stellar run at Monaco, and his racing aspirations – in the clip above.

April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

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Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994