by Ryan Wood  |    |   0  |  30 November -0001

Professor Sid Watkins passes away aged 84

Professor Sid Watkins has passed away at the age of 84 on September 12th.

The former FIA Formula One Safety and Medical Delegate played a vital role in improving the safety of the sport during one of its most dangerous periods. He has also saved numerous drivers' lives during his 26-years in the role.

The renowned neurosurgeon retired in 2005, replaced by Gary Harstein, but continued in his role as President of the FIA Institute until last year.

Watkins F1 career began in 1978 when Bernie Ecclestone offered him the role of official F1 race doctor, a role he accepted. His first race was the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix.

Just a few races later, Ronnie Peterson crashed at the Italian GP and later died in hospital after Watkins was refused access to treat the driver by Italian police as they waited 18 minutes for an ambulance to arrive at the scene.

Watkins demanded Ecclestone provide better safety equipment, an anaesthetist, a medical car and a medical helicopter in attendance at every race. Ecclestone complied and they were on standby at the very next race. Watkins also insisted he follow the cars in the medical car on the opening lap - a tradition which continues until the very day.

The Englishman has seen to and saved the lives of many drivers' during his career. Didier Pironi in 1982, Martin Donnelly in 1990, Karl Wendlinger in 1994 and Mika Häkkinen in 1995.

He was a good friend of Ayrton Senna and was at the scene of the Brazilian's crash. Senna passed away from his injuries which hit Watkins hard. In response to the deaths of Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at Imola in 1994, the FIA Expert Advisory Safety Committee was set up and Watkins was made Chairman. There hasn't been a driver fatality since.

We wish to offer our condolences to his family and friends. The sport wouldn't be where it is today if it weren't for Watkins passion for driver safety.



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