Formula One’s 2019 season has begun with the loss of its FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting in Melbourne, of an embolism at the age of 66.
In a statement, FIA President Jean Todt said, “It is with immense sadness that I learned of Charlie’s sudden passing. I have known Charlie Whiting for many years and he has been a great Race Director, a central and inimitable figure in Formula One who embodied the ethics and spirit of this fantastic sport. Formula 1 has lost a faithful friend and a charismatic ambassador in Charlie. All my thoughts, those of the FIA and entire motor sport community go out to his family, friends, and all Formula One lovers.”
Whiting began his F1 career in 1977 working at the Hesketh team, then in the 1980s at Brabham. He has been an integral part of the organisation of the FIA Formula One World Championship since he joined the Federation in 1988, and has been the Race Director since 1997.
The tributes have already begun to pour in, beginning at the driver’s press conference where current F1 champion Lewis Hamilton said, “I’ve known Charlie since I started in 2007” adding that he was “Obviously incredibly shocked this morning to hear the sad news. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. What he did for the sport, his commitment, he really was a pillar… Such an iconic figure within the sporting world, and he contributed so much to us. May he rest in peace,” he added.
He was joined by challenger Sebastian Vettel from the Ferrari team who said, “I was as shocked as we all are, still now, when I heard the news this morning, especially because I spoke to him yesterday and walked the track for the first couple of corners together with him. It’s difficult to grasp when somebody’s just not there anymore”, the Ferrari driver said.
“I’ve known him for a long time and he was sort of our man, our drivers’ man. Obviously there’s regulations and all that and then there’s us and he was the middle man. He was someone you could ask anything, at any time. He was open to everyone, any time his door was always open.
“All our thoughts are with him and especially his family in these difficult circumstances,” he added.