Formula 1 racers pay tribute to 'the drivers' man' Charlie Whiting
The Formula 1 community has paid tribute to long-time Race Director Charlie Whiting, in the wake of the Briton’s sudden passing on Thursday morning.
Whiting had served as Formula 1’s Race Director since 1997 and had worked for the FIA since 1988, following spells with the Hesketh and Brabham teams.
Whiting had travelled to Australia for the start of the 2019 season but suffered a fatal pulmonary embolism, with the FIA announcing his death on Thursday morning.
Motorsport Week has compiled some of the tributes issued by drivers at Albert Park on Thursday.
Lewis Hamilton: “I’ve known Charlie since I started in 2007, and I made some comments this morning on my Instagram. Obviously incredibly shocked this morning to hear the sad news, and my thoughts and prayers are with his family. What he did for the sport and his commitment, he really was a pillar as Toto [Wolff] said, such an iconic figure within the sporting world, and he contributed so much to us. May he rest in peace.”
Sebastian Vettel: “I guess I was as shocked as we all, still now, when I heard the news this morning, especially because I spoke to him yesterday and walked the track for the first couple of corners together with him. It's difficult to grasp when somebody is just not there any more. I think to add on what Lewis said, I’ve known him for a long time, and he’s been sort of our man, the drivers’ man. Obviously there’s regulations and all that, and then there’s us, and he was the middle man. He was someone you could ask anything at any time. He was open to everyone. At any time his door was always open. He was a racer, and a very nice guy. Shocked. I don’t think there’s that much to add. I think all our thoughts, the whole paddock, the whole circus, the whole family of Formula 1, our whole thoughts are with him and especially his family in these difficult circumstances.”
Valtteri Bottas: “There were so many different things he was involved with and really helping us, helping the safety a lot, he was always taking all the notes during the drivers’ briefings if we had any concerns regarding track improvements or if we felt some was odd, it could be something to do with the kerbs or how the marshals were working during sessions – everything, he was involved in all of that. He had a massive impact in Formula 1 and in what it is nowadays. At this point it’s difficult to imagine would can be there instead of Charlie to do the same job.”
Max Verstappen: “It was a big shock, also because I spent the day with him in Geneva a few weeks ago. We had a good chat about a lot of things. When I left, I was like ‘see you in Australia for another season of racing’, and then when you hear this news, it’s unbelievable. Just 66 years old. I guess you just have to appreciate every day and every morning you wake up and that you enjoy life, it’s not only about Formula 1 but there are a lot of other things in life. This is just one part of it. I think at the moment, the most important is that the thoughts are going to his family and friends and close ones.”
Daniel Ricciardo: "It was not the nicest news to walk in to. Just taken aback by it for sure. But yeah, I’ll try and make it slightly more positive. As Seb said, he was there for us, and we gave him a hard time, we really pressed him and pushed him and make him work. But he was always really receptive. You always felt like he was on our side. We would, I guess like a broken record, a lot of things we would always complain about, he would never really shut it down. He was always ears open. I think he did a lot for the sport. We’ll have some very, very nice and positive memories of him. I remember my first Aussie GP in 2012, going up with Franz [Tost], and he said go and introduce yourself to Charlie, start of a new season, go and start the relationship on a good note. Time goes fast. As Max touched on, it is important to just appreciate each moment. You do take it for granted. I’m sure we’ll all race with a lot of passion this weekend. It’s just a reminder as well that we’re all very lucky to be in this position.
Kimi Raikkonen: “I heard it when I came to the circuit and it’s obviously a very sad thing. He’s been part of Formula One for a very long time and always been very nice with all the drivers, keeping us under control, so it’s a very sad thing, not just for our racing but for our general life. But what can you do? What can you say? Of course he generally did a very good job, with the safety and keeping the drivers under control. It’s always very sad when someone dies, but that’s how it goes.”
Sergio Perez: “He’s such a good guy. It’s very rare in this sport to meet such a peaceful guy, lovely guy, close friend. I have nothing bad to say about him to be honest. Nothing. It’s only good things. All my thoughts go to his family. We travel the world together for many years, he did more than I did obviously, but it’s sad you know. Someone like him, it’s going to be impossible to find a replacement for him. He’s one of those key players in the sport. He had such a relationship with all the drivers, with all the team principals, so it’s going to be hard to replace him. I wish his family all my best. I heard he actually had some plans to go on Mexico with his family, his next holiday was going to be in Mexico, I saw him yesterday. As you saw everyone is shocked, very sad with this news. But at the same time I’m sure that if Charlie was here he will love all of us to see us racing, have a good show on Sunday, that will make him happy. But definitely all my thoughts with his beautiful family.”
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, how would you say, attentive? He was really wanting to listen to my opinion, and it shocked me, because I was a rookie and I thought my opinion didn’t count much when I arrived to Formula 1 but he gave me the opportunity to immediately to listen and even if I was 20 years old and I had done three races in F1 he came to me, talked to me, [asked me] what do you think, what would you do better, he was very open, open to young drivers. I remember my first year being particularly aggressive and he was not coming to me to tell me to calm down he was saying I think it’s great what you are doing to Formula 1, both Max and you are showing new kind of standards of driving a bit more aggressively and raising some questions with moving under braking and he didn’t tell me to stop, he just told me just be careful, you’re great for F1. When I heard the news today I was devastated as he’s one of those guys that I’ve always enjoyed chatting to, I’ve spent the winter sharing emails with him of how to improve the sports, do more meeting with stewards, organise ourselves to join stewards and drivers in a more productive way, very open for a chat, an email, when I heard the news I was devastated.”
Romain Grosjean: “He was very supportive of the drivers, he was our way, our interface to speak, to get our opinions. 145 grand prix so 145 briefings with him. And then some times in the stewards’ room as well. He will be greatly missed.”
Daniil Kvyat: “It’s very sad news that just came out of nowhere really. Personally I knew him well. We had some really nice conversations. He was always really nice and fair to me. We discussed many episodes that happened to me on the track, person to person, and we also sometimes had a cup of tea outside the track, even maybe after some races to discuss some things about the general sport, he asked some opinions of mine. He asked in Japan, maybe 2015. He will be very much missed, but he left a very big mark on our lives as drivers, and the mark in the sport in general.”