Charlie Whiting, 1952-2019

Charlie Whiting watched his first motor race when he climbed over the fence to see the 1964 British Grand Prix, held at Brands Hatch close to his family home. He came to working in motor racing himself through his older brother Nick, who was competing in autocross and circuit racing. Having decided to follow a career in race engineering, he visited a technical college and then the Borough Polytechnic Institute, earning qualifications in mechanical engineering.

Whiting's first job in motor sport was preparing rally cars. In 1976, he and his brother were running a Surtees in the 1976 British F5000 series for race driver Divina Galica. For the 1977 season Whiting joined Hesketh Racing. Following the demise of the team, he joined Bernie Ecclestone's Brabham team, where he would stay for the following decade, becoming chief mechanic for the World Drivers' Championship successes of Nelson Piquet in 1981 and 1983 and later rising to chief mechanic.

In 1988, Whiting became Technical Delegate to Formula One of the sport's governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), and in 1997 he was appointed FIA Director and Safety Delegate. In this role, he was responsible for track and car safety, the technical and procedural regulations of the sport and for starting the races themselves. He served as lead official at every Formula One race, being in charge of everything related to rules and their interpretation. Whiting also visited future and current venues of Formula One racing to carry out safety inspections.

Whiting was known for safety improvements in motorsport, such as the halo, which was credited with preventing Charles Leclerc from suffering serious injury at the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix. He was also responsible for introducing the headrest, safety survival cell, front and side impact structures and high cockpit sides.

On the morning of Thursday 14 March 2019, in Melbourne, Australia, three days before the season opening Australian Grand Prix and 2019 Formula One season, Whiting suffered a pulmonary embolism and died, aged 66.

I spoke to him yesterday and walked the first couple of corners of the track with him. Difficult to grasp… He was the drivers man. He was open to everyone at any time. He was a racer, a very nice guy.
— Sebastian Vettel - Scuderia Ferrari Driver
He was always there for us. We would always push him and make him work. Like a broken record we would always complain about things and he never shut us down. I remember my first Aussie GP and Franz said go introduce yourself to Charlie at the start of the season.
— Daniel Ricciardo - Renault F1 Driver
Very sad and shocked to hear Charlie passed away. Thank you for always looking out for us, F1 will not be the same without you. RIP Charlie.
— Max Verstappen - Red Bull Racing Driver
It is with immense sadness that I learned of Charlie’s sudden passing. 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 1 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.
— Jean Todt - FIA President
Dear Charlie the tragic news that you are no longer with us shocked me deeply we spent 20yrs in #f1 we had our differences of opinion sometimes but we always had a great respect for each other your passion to the sport is a great loss my thoughts and prayers are with your family.
— Flavio Briatore - Ex Benetton Team Principal
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. 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.
— Ross Brawn, Managing Director, Motorsports, Formula 1
Charlie was a true professional and extremely knowledgeable, but more than that, he was a wonderful person, who always treated everyone with respect. A tireless and enlightened motorsport expert, he helped make F1 safer and better. He set the benchmark for our sport, which is diminished by his passing and we have lost a friend. He will be greatly missed by everyone.
— Mattia Binotto, Scuderia Ferrari Team Principal

Charlie Whiting and Gordon Murray working on Nelson Piquet's Brabham at the 400th F1 race - the 1984 Austrian Grand Prix.

Remembering Charlie Whiting before the 2019 Australian Grand Prix