MELBOURNE, Australia – Formula 1 race director Charlie Whiting, a long-time icon of the sport, has died here after suffering a heart attack three days before the opening race of the 2019 racing season.
He was 66 and had been involved with F1 since joining the Hesketh race team in 1977. Accolades began to pour in almost immediately, one of the first from the International Automobile Federation’s president JeanTodt.
He said, according to international news agencies: ”It is with immense sadness that I learned of Charlie’s sudden passing. He has been a great race director, a central and inimitable figure in F1 who embodied the ethics and spirit of F1
”The sport has lost a faithful friend and a charismatic ambassador.”
He had been race director since 1997 after working for the Hesketh and Brabham teams and with former F1 ”supremo” Bernie Ecclestone in the 1980’s. He became technical director of the sport in 1988 and, according to a Reuters report ”became a driving force in pushing for track safety”.
His must recent change was the introduction of the ”halo” now above each driver’s head on every F1 car and credited with saving French driver Charles Leclerc when at the 2018 Belgian GP when Fernando Alonso’s McLaren went over his race car.
A Twitter statement from McLaren read: ”Charlie will be remembered as one of the giants of our sport, a great colleague. Our deepest sympathies and thoughts are with all of his loved ones.”