F1 race director Whiting dies of pulmonary embolism before Australian GP
Updated 11:32, 14-Mar-2019
CGTN

‍Formula One race director Charlie Whiting, a key figure in the sport, has died three days before the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, the governing Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) said in a statement on Thursday.

It said the Briton died in Melbourne as a result of a pulmonary embolism. He was 66. 

The news was met with shock in the Formula One paddock where Whiting was close to drivers, with whom he conducted pre-race briefings and teams who sought technical guidance and clarifications.

Whiting began his F1 career in 1977 working at the Hesketh team, then in the 1980s at Brabham.

He became an integral part of organizing the world championship after joining the FIA in 1988. He had been a race director since 1997.

FIA race director Charlie Whiting at the Drivers Press Conference for F1 Grand Prix of Brazil at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace in Sao Paulo, Brazil, November 10, 2016. /VCG File Photo

FIA race director Charlie Whiting at the Drivers Press Conference for F1 Grand Prix of Brazil at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace in Sao Paulo, Brazil, November 10, 2016. /VCG File Photo

"It is with immense sadness that I learned of Charlie's sudden passing," said Jean Todt, president of the International Automobile Federation.

"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 One has lost a faithful friend and a charismatic ambassador in Charlie."

Former champions McLaren said they were "shocked and deeply saddened."

"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," the team said on Twitter.

"We are shocked and saddened to hear of Charlie Whiting's passing and our deepest condolences go out to his family, friends, and colleagues," Red Bull Racing tweeted as tributes began flowing.

Christian Karembeu (L) of France watches FIA race director Charlie Whiting wave the starting flag of the Heineken Champions of the Grid go-kart race ahead of the Italian Formula One Grand Prix in Monza, Italy, August 31, 2017. /VCG File Photo

Christian Karembeu (L) of France watches FIA race director Charlie Whiting wave the starting flag of the Heineken Champions of the Grid go-kart race ahead of the Italian Formula One Grand Prix in Monza, Italy, August 31, 2017. /VCG File Photo

Red Bull chief Christian Horner added that his death left "a huge void in our sport."

"He was a man with great integrity who performed a difficult role in a balanced way," he said.

"At heart, he was a racer with his origins stretching back to his time at Hesketh and the early days of Brabham," Horner added.

"Charlie was a great man who will be sadly missed by the entire Formula One paddock and the wider motorsport community."

FIA race director Charlie Whiting talks with Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari in the Paddock during previews to the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix in Bahrain, April 13, 2017. /VCG File Photo

FIA race director Charlie Whiting talks with Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari in the Paddock during previews to the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix in Bahrain, April 13, 2017. /VCG File Photo

The Haas team said the "entire motorsport community is in mourning", while Renault called him "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," Renault added.

(With input from AFP and Reuters)