Thursday, Mar 14 08:44pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Tributes flood in after Charlie Whiting dies suddenly

The world of motor racing is mourning the loss of Charlie Whiting this week.


The 66-year-old died on the eve of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Wednesday night due to a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot from the heart to the lungs.


Whiting was the Race Director for the Formula 1 World Championship, a position he had held since 1997.


“It is with immense sadness that I learned of Charlie’s sudden passing,” FIA President Jean Todt said.


“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’s death came as a shock to the Formula 1 paddock. He had been at Albert Park on Wednesday as part of pre-event preparations.


“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,” four-time World Championship winner Sebastian Vettel said.


“It’s difficult to grasp when somebody’s just not there anymore.


“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.


“He was a racer, he was just a very nice guy… The whole paddock, the whole circus, the whole family of Formula 1, all our thoughts are with him and especially his family in these difficult circumstances.”


Five-time title winner Lewis Hamilton said: “I’ve known Charlie since I started in 2007… 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.”


Drivers and team personnel took a moment to share their thoughts with the likes of Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen, Toto Wolff and Mattia Binotto offering a moment for the press.


More recently Verstappen spent time with Whiting as part of his community service punishment for an incident at the Brazilian Grand Prix.


“Of course it was a big shock, especially because I spent the day with him in Geneva a few weeks ago and we had a good chat, just about a lot of things,” he said.


“When I left I said see you in Australia for another season of racing and of course when you hear this news, it’s unbelievable. Just 66 years old, so I guess we just have to appreciate every day and every morning you wake up, and that you enjoy life and that it’s not only about Formula 1 but about a lot of other things in life – this is just one part of it.


“I think at the moment, what is the most important is that thoughts are going to family and friends and close ones.”


Whiting was born in Kent in the United Kindgom. Whiting spent time early on in his career helping older brother Nick prepare race cars and rally cars near the Brands Hatch circuit.


He wasn’t a racer, but Whiting would work on cars at a very young age as he helped his brother. Eventually that led to working on Formula 1 cars. He began his career in Formula 1 with the Hesketh team in 1977 before joining the then-Bernie Ecclestone owned Brabham team.


Whiting wanted to be a Chief Mechanic like his idol before him, Roger Hill. Guiding a driver to the World Championship was the ultimate goal. Whiting eventually ended up in the role alongside Gordon Murray. They worked with the likes of Niki Lauda, Carlos Pace, John Watson and Nelson Piquet. Success came with the Brazilian and he achieved the goal of winning the title.


After Brabham was sold, Whiting joined the FIA In 1988 as the Formula 1 Technical Delegate and later the Race Director and Safety Delegate in 1997. He later became the Permanent Starter at Formula 1 races and the head of the Formula 1 Technical Department at the FIA.


The 2019 season is scheduled to get underway on Friday with a 90-minute practice session. A replacement for Whiting hasn’t been announced yet.