The Formula One world is mourning the tragic death of race director Charlie Whiting on the eve of the season-opening race in Melbourne.
The much-loved and influential figure died aged 66 after suffered a pulmonary embolism on Thursday morning.
“It is with immense sadness that I learned of Charlie’s sudden passing,” FIA president Jean Todt said.
“I have known Charlie Whiting for many years and 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. All my thoughts, those of the FIA and entire motor sport community go out to his family, friends, and all Formula One lovers.”
Whiting had been in attendance at Albert Park on Wednesday as teams and officials prepared for the first race weekend of the season.
He was a key figure in Formula One, leading the sport behind the scenes on a day-to-day and race-to-race basis.
He joined the FIA as F1 race director in 1997 after two decades working with former teams Hesketh and Brabham.
In addition to his considerable influence on the rules of the sport, Whiting spearheaded the introduction of safety features such as the ‘halo’ head-protection unit.
It is as yet unclear how the FIA will proceed for the Australian Grand Prix given the enormous scope of Whiting’s role across a race weekend.
Formula One motorsports boss Ross Brawn paid tribute to his long-time friend.
“I have known Charlie for all of my racing life. We worked as mechanics together, became friends and spent so much time together at race tracks across the world,” he said.
“I was filled with immense sadness when I heard the tragic news. I’m devastated. It is a great loss not only for me personally but also the entire Formula 1 family, the FIA and motorsport as a whole. All our thoughts go out to his family.”
Desperately sad to hear official confirmation from the FIA that F1 director Charlie Whiting passed away last night in Melbourne aged 66. A friend for 30 years, he played a huge role in the sport and will be much missed
— Adam Cooper (@adamcooperF1) March 14, 2019
Charlie Whiting was one of the nicest and most down-to-earth people one could have the pleasure to meet. Despite his incredibly busy schedule, he always made time and his company was a pleasure – he had a wonderful lightness of touch and great humour. This is a very sad day
— Andrew Benson (@andrewbensonf1) March 14, 2019
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.
— Dario Franchitti (@dariofranchitti) March 14, 2019