Sports

Whiting, heartbeat of Formula One for decades, dies

Charlie Whiting, who has died suddenly aged 66, was much more than his title of FIA race director suggests - he was the heartbeat of Formula One for decades.

From enforcing bewildering technical regulations to solving driver disputes, ensuring track safety and smoothly handling the labyrinth of Formula One's high-tech race systems, Whiting did it all without drama and usually with a smile.

A giant of the sport behind the scenes, he was best known to fans as the finger on the button of the complex start sequence at every grand prix since 1997.

According to FIA president Jean Todt, Whiting, who leaves a wife and two children, was the "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," added Todt.

"All my thoughts, those of the FIA and entire motor sport community go out to his family, friend, and all Formula One lovers."

As the FIA Formula One director of racing, safety delegate and head of the sport's technical department, Whiting was responsible for the logistics of each grand prix.

He had been in the Melbourne paddock on Wednesday to oversee this Sunday's season-opening Australian Grand Prix, but passed away after suffering a pulmonary embolism yesterday morning.

Coming just a day before practice begins, Whiting's sudden death hit especially hard.

PASSIONATE PIONEER

He was a passionate pioneer of safety improvements, the most visible of which is the cockpit protection system - or halo - developed by Whiting after the fatal crash involving Jules Bianchi in the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.

The device was widely attributed with saving the life of Charles Leclerc at last year's Belgian Grand Prix.

Whiting joined the governing body, the FIA, in 1988 as Formula One technical delegate, tasked with scrutineering the cars to ensure they complied with regulations.

He became race director in 1997.

"We are deeply saddened at the news of Charlie Whiting's passing," said Colin Syn, deputy chairman of the Singapore Grand Prix.

"Charlie was instrumental in the success of the Formula 1 Singapore GP from the very beginning. He truly understood the importance and challenges of night racing and was incredibly supportive in getting the event off the ground.

"Charlie's immense knowledge of the sport, integrity and dedication to his work is irreplaceable and he will be dearly missed. Our thoughts are with Charlie's family and friends during this difficult time." - AFP

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