Charlie Whiting, Formula 1’s long-serving race director has passed away this morning in Melbourne at the age of 66.
A resident of the F1 paddock since the 70s, and a warm and kind representative of the F1 community, Whiting learned the ropes of Grand Prix racing as a mechanic, staring his F1 career with Hesketh in 1977 before joining Bernie Ecclestone’s Brabham outfit.
Wrenching for Nelson Piquet, Whiting celebrated two world championships with the Brazilian driver and Brabham.
The Brit joined the FIA in 1988 and became F1’s permanent race director in 1997, a task that saw him oversee the sport’s technical and safety matters.
“It is with immense sadness that I learned of Charlie’s passing,” said FIA president Jean Todt.
“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.”
Up and down the paddock, on the eve of the opening round of the F1 world championship, the tributes honoring Charlie’s memory poured in.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes: “I’ve known Charlie since I started in 2007. I was incredibly shocked this morning to hear the sad news and my thoughts and prayers are with his family. What he did for this sport, his commitment, he’s such an iconic figure within the sporting world and he contributed so much to us. May he rest in peace.”
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari: “I was as shocked as we all are when I heard the news this morning. Especially as 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. I’ve known him for a long time and he’s sort of been the drivers’ man. Obviously there are the regulations, then there’s us, and he was the middle man, he was someone you could ask anything at any time. He was open to anyone, and any time his door was always open. He was a racer, just a very nice guy. I’m shocked. Obviously all our thoughts – the whole paddock, the whole circus, the whole family of F1 – are with him and his family in these difficult circumstances.”
Max Verstappen, Red Bull: “Like everybody said it was a big shock. Also because I spent the day with him in Geneva a few weeks ago and we had a good chat about a lot of things. When I left, at the time, I was like, ‘see you in Australia for another season of racing’. And then obviously when you hear this news it’s unbelievable. Just 66 years old. I guess we just have to appreciate every day, and every morning you just enjoy life. It’s not just about Formula 1, there are other things in life. This is just one part of it. At the moment what is most important is that thoughts are going to his family, friends and close ones.”
Toto Wolff, Mercedes: “I was shocked and saddened to hear the news of Charlie’s passing this morning. He was a pillar of our Formula One family – balanced in his approach, subtle in his understanding and always with the interests of Formula One as his main focus. He was a fantastic ambassador for our sport and a true guardian of its best interests; all of us who were lucky enough to know him will miss his ready smile and gentle humour. On behalf of the entire Mercedes motorsport family, I send our deepest sympathies to his family and friends.”
Ross Brawn, F1 Managing Director of Motorsports: “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.”
Christian Horner, Red Bull: “He was a man with great integrity who performed a difficult role in a balanced way. At heart, he was a racer with his origins stretching back to his time at Hesketh and the early days of Brabham. On behalf of everyone at Aston Martin Red Bull Racing we pass on our sincere condolences to his family and friends. Charlie was a great man who will be sadly missed by the entire Formula 1 paddock and the wider motorsport community.”