Charlie Whiting, Federation Internationale de l’ Automobile Formula 1 race director, a popular and an important figure of the sports industry has died three days before the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. A statement was released by the FIA on Thursday.
As per the statement, the Briton, who started his career by working for the Hesketh team in 1977, died in Melbourne of a pulmonary embolism.
Jean Todt, president of the International Automobile Federation, stated that with great sadness that he learned about the passing away of Charlie. He stated that Charlie has been a great race director, an integral and distinctive figure in Formula One who personified the ethics and spirit of this remarkable sport. Formula One has lost a faithful friend and a charming ambassador in Charlie.
Since 1997, Whiting had been a race director and first worked in Formula One for defunct British outfit Hesketh before crossing to Brabham to work with the sport’s former commercial big fish Bernie Ecclestone in the 1980s.
In 1988, he joined the FIA as a technical delegate. As FIA director, Whiting was an impetus in pushing improved safety and played a central role in the introduction of the halo, the ring-like barrier fitted over the drivers’ heads to protect them from heavy collision and missiles.
The halo was attributed with saving driver Charles Leclerc, now at Ferrari, from a possible serious injury at last year’s Belgian Grand Prix when Fernando Alonso’s McLaren hit against his Sauber’s bodywork as it flew over the Monegasque’s head.
The news was met with shock in the Formula One racetrack where Whiting was close to drivers, with whom he carried out pre-race briefings, and teams who wanted technical guidance and clarifications.
Former champions McLaren on Twitter stated that Charlie would be remembered as a giant of F1 sports and also a great colleague. His deepest sympathies are with his loved ones.