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Charlie Whiting 1952 – 2019

March 14, 2019

I hate getting out of bed.

Each morning I’m awoken first by my radio, preset up to turn itself on twenty minutes before I’m due to arise, then, fifteen minutes later a pre-alarm on my phone goes off to alert me that my actual alarm is imminent before the third and final alarm goes off five minutes later, upon hearing which I spring into action.

Because of this softy-softly approach to getting up, when my final, ‘no messing around’ alarm goes off it doesn’t seem quite as rude, and I don’t get the feeling of dread and disappointment I once did. Or at least that’s the theory.

This morning, between radio turn-on and alarm #1, and whilst still half asleep I managed to pick out the words ‘Formula 1‘ and ‘has died’ from the news report.

After 30 seconds or so scrambling for my phone to find out more, during which everyone in Formula 1 was ‘Schrodinger’s cat’ – both alive and dead, I was truly saddened to discover that it was dear old Charlie Whiting who’d passed away.

Charlie Whiting was a F1 stalwart. Part of Bernie Ecclestone’s inner circle, he’d worked in F1 since joining the doomed Hesketh team in 1977, going on to work for Ecclestone’s Brabham Team before becoming part of the F1 establishment in 1988 taking on the role of FIA Technical Delegate when Ecclestone sold up and assumed control of F1, and latterly FIA Director and Safety Delegate, to which he devoted his life right up until his untimely passing on the eve of the 2019 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

In 1996 Charlie would assume his most high profile role: Race director, becoming drivers’ go-to man when they felt they’d been the victim of an on-track injustice with the power to right those wrongs.

Rarely did a Grand Prix go by without half a dozen mentions of Charlie’s name on the radio between driver and pit-wall.

On Wednesday he was seen carrying out his standard pre-weekend checks to make sure the Albert Park track was ready for action to get underway on Friday morning as planned.

Not only was he full-tilt working to ensure the F1 of 2019 ran smoothly, Charlie was also instrumental in the planning of the shape of F1 of Grand Prix to come working with Ross Brawn, Jean Todt et al in planning the rules and regulations for the new Formula 1 coming into effect in 2021.

In an interview with Autosport some years ago, Whiting said:

“Apart from anything else all the drivers are so young, and although I don’t feel old, they probably look at me now and say, ‘Silly old fool, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, he’s out of touch.’ I’ve seen 75-year-old people holding senior positions, and I must admit I’ve thought they’ve been a little bit past their sell-by. I hope I never get thought of like that!”

The outpouring of emotion on social media from everyone involved in F1 is testament to the fact that he remained a thoroughly respected, admired and most importantly liked man up and down the paddock right to the end.


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