Charlie Whiting, Circuit de Catalunya, 2019

FIA F1 race director Charlie Whiting dies

2019 F1 season

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Formula 1 race director Charlie Whiting has died at the age of 66, three days before the opening race of the new season.

The FIA confirmed in a statement Whiting suffered a pulmonary embolism while in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.

Whiting has served as F1’s race director since 1997. He joined the FIA in 1988, prior to which he worked at the Brabham and Hesketh Formula 1 teams.

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

“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.”

The FIA has not yet confirmed who will take over from Whiting in overseeing this weekend’s race.

Formula 1 managing director Ross Brawn described Whiting’s death as “tragic”.

“I have known Charlie for all of my racing life,” said Brawn. “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.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 63 comments on “FIA F1 race director Charlie Whiting dies”

    1. RIP, will be missed.

    2. My commiserations to his family.

      Charlie’s been a polarizing figure in the paddock, but that’s the nature of the beast given the role he played. His presence on the starting gantry will be missed.

      1. Indeed, he will be missed.
        My thoughts are with his family first and foremost.

        Interestingly, I did not see Charlie as a polarising figure (some stewards fit that bill though), but more a beacon of reason.

        1. @coldfly, maybe not so much a polarising figure as being the one who would often have to bear the brunt of any criticism of any decisions by the stewards.

          Given his role was generally more public facing, and the relative seniority of his position, it is inevitable that when decisions were made that were unpopular with the public, the focus would be on him as he would be seen as directing that decision, irrespective of whether he did have any influence or not.

          In that respect, it was a rather difficult balancing act to stave off pressure from different factions of the fan base, from the media and from the teams – it might have lead to some grumbling about his decisions over the years, but I imagine that few would want to take on what is not exactly an easy role.

    3. Suddenly driver/team favourites, new regs, fastest lap don’t seem that important. A giant of F1 and motorsport generally. Missed.

    4. What a shock. What a loss for F1. So sad. My condolences.

    5. The way horrible news like this just pops out of the blue… Rest in peace Charlie and condolences to your loved ones and the F1 fraternity.

    6. That’s truly shocking news… so sad to hear. He will be missed. Rest in peace Charlie.

    7. I’m in shock. It’s no exaggeration to say that F1 won’t be the same without him. Very sad news.

    8. RIP. My condolences to his family.

    9. Couldn’t believe it when i heard. RIP Charlie

    10. RIP Charlie, you will be sorely missed.

    11. BlackJackFan
      14th March 2019, 5:38

      Sad news indeed – and only 66 – but I’m somewhat surprised that nobody seems to have any idea how things will continue…
      At 66 Mr Whiting had already passed most normal retirement ages and, although I would not want to insist on anybody retiring ‘so young’, I find it very odd that there seems not to have been a deputy standing by for his subsequent retirement.

      1. BlackJackFan
        14th March 2019, 5:41

        “subsequent” – ‘eventual’…?

      2. I am pretty sure that the FIA and Whiting had discussed and even planned things. Just maybe they don’t want to immediately talk about who will replace him – also we don’t know whether they have to fly someone in, holding back an announcement on that.

        1. BlackJackFan
          15th March 2019, 2:12

          Hi BasCB – I take your point, and it now seems there is/was a sort of deputy system waiting in the wings. I was just surprised (behaves also reacting to this sad news) that other sources claimed to have no knowledge of a potential successor…

          1. I think the FIA has a good idea of who takes particular roles, especially in the emergency (there’s a relatively small number of people with the capacity to do the job on 24 hours’ notice who also have pre-existing visa access to Australia). I’m sure on a day-to-day basis, there will be few if any problems in the interim.

            The problem is who does the job on a permanent basis, and I don’t think the FIA has made a decision on that yet.

    12. Utterly shocked and lost for words. He was perhaps the most respected man on the paddock…will be dearly missed.
      may his soul Rest in peace…

    13. RIP Charlie.
      A genuine & giant pillar of support for the whole of F1.

    14. Rest in Peace, Charlie. This was so sudden and shocking. He was an important figure in F1 and his presence will be missed. He had been in the sport so long that he had become a part of the furniture. He will be tough to replace for many reasons. My condolences to his family and friends.

    15. Probably a result of a long flight
      So sad to hear. RIP

      1. That was my first thought too. What terrible news. He’s been an absolute pillar of the sport for so long, this is going to be a sad, sad loss for the paddock.

      2. Kylie Minogue spotted leaving the hotel.

    16. Really tragic news.. Rest in Peace…

      A figurehead of motorsport gone and I think a role that will be struggled to be filled by just one person.

    17. Oh no! I am so very sorry to hear this news. Especially for his family and friends.

      A friend of mine involved in racing, one of the little guys in racing, met Charlie on a flight and told him about some of his racing ideas. Charlie took a genuine interest and spent time giving him free advice and consulting. They communicated back and forth by email and phone. Charlie even looked at a website I built for my friend’s project and we made some changes based on his input. Charlie did not have to do any of that. But, he did.

      So, even though I never met the man myself, what he did for my friend in such a kind, gracious manner tells me enough. He was a good soul. Vaya con dios, Charlie…

      1. Thanks for sharing this, a lovely story. He was a good soul indeed. Rest in peace Charlie.

      2. @bullmello – very nice anecdote!

    18. Godspeed Charlie! We were all fortunate to have you with us.

    19. RIP Charlie. What a shock.

    20. I echo the sadness of my fellow commentators. Charlie Whiting, like Murray Walker and Bernie Ecclestone, will forever be stamped into our Formula 1 consciousnesses.

      1. Indeed @shimks. I would put Sid Watkins in that bracket also.

        1. I second that suggestion!

        2. Yesterday I briefly, literally a few seconds, was watching Sky F1. A couple of guys, trackside and with an ambulance in the background, were talking about somebody who “had done so much for safety” or something. I thought they were talking about Sid Watkins, but now I’m not so sure.
          It aired at around 10:00pm british time.

    21. My condolences to his family and all the F1 paddock.

    22. RIP. Its a shock that he’s died. Thoughts with his family, but the timing is mental. He would have been leading the briefings today. Don’t envy the person who’s got to step in at such sort notice, even if they do have someone trained up.

    23. My condolences to his family and friends. I got the impression he did his job with impartiality. He will be missed. RIP.

    24. Tragic news. Condolences to his family & friends. He’ll be thought of when the 5 lights go out at the start of the race. A race without Charlie over seeing is hard to think of.

    25. My condolences to his family and friends, the F1 world will mis him.

    26. RIP

      One of the legends is gone…

    27. RIP Charlie, such a shock to hear. You will be sadly missed.

    28. Rest in peace, Charlie. His leadership in improving safety moved F1 towards an spectator sport focused on motorsport achievement, without a weekly expectation of tragedy – for both pilots, scuderias and attendees. Might be controversial, but paying to see people die has never been the point of motorsport, managing risk was his mandate and no question his passion improved the sport beyond recognition.

    29. Not a big fan of his blatant bias and disregard for sporting values, but shocked and saddened by this.

      I always wondered how he coped with what the stressful job at his age, but seems it took its toll after all.

      1. So much to untangle here…

        Let alone the fact that a pulmonary embolism could as easily have been caused by his flight to Australia as his lifestyle.

        Dear me.

    30. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
      14th March 2019, 8:33

      Shellshocked at this awful news right on the eve of Melbourne.
      Rest in peace Charlie. Your patriarchal presence will be sorely missed, it’s the end of an era. Condolences to his friends, family and colleagues.

    31. Very sad news indeed. F1 has lost one of it’s great figures, a true voice of reason in the paddock. RIP Charlie. My condolences go out to all of his family.

    32. Shocking sad news. Charlie ‘The Regulation Man’ will be sorely missed. It’s the end of a F1 era. A huge advocate for driver safety and an F1 institution. Peace be on you, Charlie.

    33. So sad.
      I’m sure over the years I’ve heard drivers talk about Charlie as a father figure, and whilst it’s perhaps just a phrase showing affection as much as anything, I suspect that it also reflects the fact that throughout their whole F1 careers – and those of many other people in the teams – Charlie was there and could be trusted to be fair, calm, and human. Like a parent he might rule against them at some point, but I never detected any hint that people perceived any bias or unfairness in his decisions, unlike so many at the top of F1. For him to be able to keep that humanity and perception of neutrailty for such a length of time must have been so precious to all those in the paddock, where pretty much all relationships are inevitably shaped by rivalry between teams and drivers. Not many people have the character to manage that so well, for so long. It takes strength of character and some political nous combined with, if you’ll forgive the emotive word, love.
      Like most here I never knew Charlie Whiting but it is clear what a hole he leaves. I’m so sorry for those directly affected by losing him.

    34. A total shock. I literally didn’t see something like this coming all of a sudden at all. RIP one great individual.

    35. Ouhhh…young and tragic.
      Tthank for everything and rest in peace, dear Charlie!
      May the beautiful fanfare of V10s sing along your last journey…you’re missed.

    36. A very sudden and unexpected shock for this Thursday morning!
      I was always OK with his decisions and it seemed to me that the fans who really hated on him weren’t actually fans of the sport but were instead fanatical worshippers of one driver.

      Commiserations to all his family and loved ones :(

    37. tony mansell
      14th March 2019, 9:51

      Its a hard game F1, all that travel and stress. I wonder how many other sexagenarians in F1 are thinking it could’ve been me this morning and pondering the point of it all. There are too many old white men in F1 and we need new blood desperately but not hopefully again in this way.

    38. Often when well-known people pass, I sort of think to myself ‘oh, that’s really sad’ and then move on pretty quickly.
      But Charlie was such a figurehead of the sport, I’ve only ever heard good things about people’s experiences with him, he was often a level head amidst the chaos of a race weekend. I will reflect on him and the positive impact he had on this wonderful sport we all love for quite a while beyond this. He will be sorely missed by us all, RIP.

    39. This is really unbelievable news…I got an e-mail from him yesterday morning!!!

    40. I have to say that I was never a fan of a lot of his his later work, i.e. making controversial decisions even worse by giving illogical explanations in public. But damn, this stings. A decent bloke like him deserved to get old in peace and see his grand-children grow up. My thoughts are with his family.

    41. That’s unexpected.. Godspeed Charlie..

      FYI: A certain Swede was dies with the same reason..

      1. Ronnie Peterson actually died from a fat embolism, from leaking bone marrow from a broken leg not set right. Still a ridiculously tragic and avoidable death, mind.

    42. A shocking news to hear in the morning. The thing is anybody can replace Charlie from a technical point of view, there are a lot good technical guys in the paddock but the thing is the trust he have built with all the teams over the years with all teams/drivers made him the reference man in the paddock when it comes to sporting/technical matters and that’s very hard to replace.
      My thoughts are with his family and friends. RIP Charlie.

    43. Unfortunately life once again showed how it is cruel and unconcerned. This sad news shocked everyone, as we were preparing to start a new season with excitement. RIP.

    44. Very sad news. RIP Charlie. F1 won’t seem the same without him!

    45. Couldn’t believe the news. He was such an integral part of the scene. Will be hard to find a replacement who earns the same amount of respect from all concerned.

    46. I am guttered by this! I mentioned before (and think a bit sharp tounged to @phylyp) that I knew someone in FIA, it was Charlie. We got to know him over the years just through F1 travel, he and Herbie took us through Race Control in Sepang, we caught up for a drink and meal when he could and have some great photos with my kids. And a few other stories lol

      We planned to see him in Melbourne this weekend. All thoughts to his young kids and family, also to Herbie Blash, what a team.

      Next Chard is on me mate. RIP.

    47. Quite a shock to see this today. I didn’t realise he was the same age as my dad, always thought he was older.

      We might have had certain quibbles with his decisions over the years, but I never felt he was biased or acted in anything other than what he thought were the best interests of the sport. Certainly his will be difficult shoes to fill, considering how much responsibility he had in different areas.

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