Formula One race director Charlie Whiting has died suddenly aged sixty-six ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. The sports governing body the FIA confirmed this morning that he had pulmonary embolism on Thursday morning in Melbourne, three days before the first race of the 2019 season.
The British engineer who has been in the sport for five decades was one of the most respected, influential and well-liked figures across five decades in the paddock.
In a statement, FIA president Jean Todt said “Charlie Whiting was a great race director, a central and inimitable figure in Formula 1 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 motorsport community go out to his family, friends, and all Formula 1 lovers.”
The British engineer began his career with Hesketh in 1977, before joining Bernie Ecclestone’s Brabham team where he was chief mechanic and then chief engineer. He then joined the FIA, becoming a central part of the organisation’s running of F1 ever since.
The FIA has confirmed that the Australian Michael Masi will take Whiting’s place as race director, safety delegate and permanent starter this weekend in Melbourne.
F1 managing director motorsport and technical director, and former team principal Ross Brawn said “I have known Charlie for all of my racing life. We worked as mechanics together, became friends and spent so much time together at race tracks across the world.
“I was filled with immense sadness when I heard the tragic news. I’m devastated. It is a great loss not only for me personally but also the entire Formula 1 family, the FIA and motorsport as a whole. All our thoughts go out to his family.”
But his death leaves the sport with a big hole to fill, he was the go-to man from safety to technical to sporting matters. F1 has lost a man who did the most difficult jobs, pretty much wrote the rules by himself, and he did all this with a lightness of touch, approachability and ready sense of humour.
But as a technical director and at the FIA appointed by chairman Bernie Ecclestone, he developed the role to include the role of technical delegate into race director and then responsibility for all aspects of F1 for the FIA.
Whiting combined unquenchable energy, something close to workaholism and an easy manner to run the most complex of sports.
We will have more in F1 Today, tonight looking at the reaction and what it means for this weekends Australian Grand Prix.