The Formula 1 world has been paying tribute to race director Charlie Whiting, who has died on the eve of the 2019 season opening Australian Grand Prix.
Whiting, who had been in the Melbourne paddock on Wednesday, passed away at the age of 66 on Thursday having suffered a pulmonary embolism.
His sudden death left the paddock in shock on the pre-race media day, with leading figures quick to praise Whiting’s character, fairness in his difficult role, and his huge contribution to F1.
Gunther Steiner, Haas team principal: It’s a very sad moment. I was very emotional when I heard this morning about it. I thought this cannot be true. I sat for a long time with him in Barcelona, I had a good chat with him.
Charlie was a very big part of this sport. We all knew him, he was always polite. He never had anything bad to say. Which is amazing from a person, especially in his job. My condolences to his family because he was too young to go.
He was a friend of Haas, a personal friend. I would say without the help of Charlie in the beginning, five years ago, here to advise us how to do things best, we wouldn’t be here. I’ve got a lot of respect for what he did.
We realise how quick it can be over. Until it happens, we think it never will. He was around yesterday in a good mood, and today he’s not with us anymore. We always have to remember him being one of the big ones in this sport to make it what it is now. We have to never forget we can show up here, have a good time, have a good life out of this, because of people like Charlie. A lot of respect to him.
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto: Charlie was a true professional and extremely knowledgeable, but more than that, he was a wonderful person, who always treated everyone with respect. A tireless and enlightened motorsport expert, he helped make F1 safer and better. He was a pillar of Formula 1. Our sport is diminished by his passing and we have lost a friend. He will be greatly missed.
Mercedes motorsport chief Toto Wolff: I was shocked and saddened to hear the news of Charlie’s passing this morning. He was a pillar of our Formula 1 family – balanced in his approach, subtle in his understanding and always with the interests of Formula 1 as his main focus.
Charlie 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 Charlie’s family and friends.
McLaren F1 team: All at McLaren are shocked and deeply saddened at the news of Charlie Whiting’s passing. Charlie will be remembered as one of the giants of our sport, as well as a great colleague. Our deepest sympathies and thoughts are with all of his loved ones.
Honda F1 technical director Toyoharu Tanabe: I want to express our deep sadness and shock at the news of Charlie’s sudden passing. It’s hard to believe he will not be with us this weekend, as he was such an integral part of Formula 1 for so many decades.
He performed his role in a diligent and fair manner and he really loved racing. His death is a great loss to this sport, to which he made such an important contribution. We will miss him on a personal and a professional level and, on behalf of everyone at Honda, I offer our sincere condolences to all his family and friends.
Mario Andretti, 1978 F1 champion: Totally shocking news of Charlie Whiting’s passing. Charlie was a true giant in our sport and very possibly irreplaceable. Sincere condolences to his family and everyone who appreciated this man. RIP my friend.
IndyCar legend Dario Franchitti: So sad to hear the Charlie Whiting has died. A lovely man who was an integral part of F1, he’ll be greatly missed by the sport and especially by his many friends.
GPDA chairman and ex-F1 driver Alex Wurz: So sorry and sad to hear that Charlie Whiting has passed away. RIP Charlie, I respected and enjoyed every minute with you.
Carlos Sainz Jr: Many good memories. I remember my rookie year, he spent a lot of time with me. I remember him as an extremely attentive, really wanting to listen to your opinion and it shocked me because I was a rookie, I thought my opinion didn’t count for much when I arrived to Formula 1. Even if I was 20 years old and I had done three races, he came to me, talked to me, ‘what do you think, what would you do better?’ So he was very open, very open to young drivers also.
I remember my first year being particularly aggressive on track and he was not coming to me to say ‘you need to calm down’, he said ‘I think it is great what you are doing for Formula 1 both Max [Verstappen] and you, you are showing new standards of driving a bit more aggressively, you are raising some questions up with moving under braking and that’ and he didn’t tell me to stop. He just told me ‘be careful, you are great for F1, keep doing it that way because everyone is enjoying seeing both of you guys battle. But just be careful’.
And I enjoyed it a lot because he was that kind of guy that was very open, he always was open for a chat. In my first year of F1, that shocked me quite a lot. So when I heard the news today, I was quite devastated because he was one of those guys that I have always enjoyed chatting to. I’ve spent the winter sharing some emails with him on how to improve the sport, how to maybe do a few more meetings with stewards or organise ourselves to join stewards and drivers in a more productive way.
Ex-Force India owner Vijay Mallya: A great tragedy. He was the central pillar of Formula 1 rules and racing and a wonderful human being. I am in shock.
Williams F1 team: We are terribly saddened to hear of Charlie Whiting’s passing. Charlie was a true legend of the sport and will be greatly missed. Everyone’s thoughts at Williams are with his family and friends at this difficult time.
Renault F1 team: Renault Sport Racing was shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden passing of Charlie Whiting. Charlie was one of the pillars and leaders of the sport. His drive to ensure exciting, safe and fair racing was unparalleled and his passion will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time. The sport will unite to continue his legacy, not just this weekend, but well into the future.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner: I am deeply saddened to hear the terrible news that Charlie Whiting passed away last night. Charlie has played a key role in this sport and has been the referee and voice of reason as race director for many years.
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.
Kimi Raikkonen: It is a very sad thing. He has been part of F1 for a very, very long time, and he has always been very nice with the drivers and keeping us under control. So it is a very sad thing, not just for racing but also generally in life.