Formula One leads tributes for medical delegate Sid Watkins

 

The world of Formula One today paid tribute to former medical delegate Sid Watkins who died last night at the age of 84.

Watkins was the on-track surgeon for 26 years from 1978 through to 2004, with his crusade to improve medical facilities in Formula One helping to dramatically cut the number of deaths and serious injuries in the sport.

Throughout his career in F1, Watkins' actions helped save the lives of Northern Ireland's Martin Donnelly, Finland's double world champion Mika Hakkinen and Austrian Gerhard Berger, among others.

Confirming Watkins' passing, McLaren Group chairman and close friend Ron Dennis said: "Today the world of motor racing lost one of its true greats.

"No, he wasn't a driver. No, he wasn't an engineer. No, he wasn't a designer. He was a doctor and it's probably fair to say he did more than anyone, over many years, to make Formula One as safe as it is today.

"Many drivers and ex-drivers owe their lives to his careful and expert work, which resulted in the massive advances in safety levels that today's drivers possibly take for granted."

Watkins was a well-known and highly respected figure in motor sport, with drivers and fans alike expressing their sadness on Twitter.

Rubens Barrichello, an F1 veteran for 19 seasons, said: "It was Sid Watkins that saved my life in Imola 94.great guy to be with,always happy...tks for everything u have done for us drivers.RIP."

Compatriot Bruno Senna, whose uncle and three-time world champion Ayrton was tended to by Watkins following his fatal crash at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, added: "RIP Prof. Sid Watkins. Sad news for us who stay behind."

F1's current medical delegate Gary Hartstein, who learned his trade for seven years under Watkins' wing, said: "For a long time I wanted to call him every time I had to make a decision. Then I just started thinking 'what would he do in this situation?'

"And finally, for better or for worse, I realised I was doing just what he'd do (but probably not as well).

"When I told him this a few years ago, he smiled and said "Of course old boy! You've had a bloody great teacher!

"It took me a few years before I actually called him Sid. It was at Spa, maybe 1993, and I asked him if I could.

"And he said 'the bums sleeping on the stairs of my hospital call me Sid, I don't see why you shouldn't'.

"He kinda had a big place in my life for a long time. Just about the most extraordinary person I've known."

Watkins worked tirelessly to improve safety in the cockpit, on the track, and the medical support at circuits alongside the likes of Britain's triple world champion Sir Jackie Stewart and FIA president Max Mosley.

During his time as medical delegate, he witnessed at first hand the deaths of drivers like Sweden's Ronnie Peterson, who died after an accident at Monza in Italy in 1978, and Senna at Imola.

Watkins' interest in motor cycling dated from his childhood in Liverpool where his family had a bike shop and garage.

After qualifying at the Liverpool University Medical School, he trained as a neurosurgeon at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford before becoming Professor of Neurosurgery in New York where he regularly attended races at nearby Watkins Glen.

Watkins became the first Professor of Neurosurgery at the London Hospital in 1970 when he was also appointed to the RAC medical panel.

He was approached by Formula One ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone in 1978 to become an on-track surgeon at grands prix and he was also the chief medical officer for FIA, the sport's world governing body.

Upon stepping down, Watkins focused on his role as president of the FIA Institute for Motor Sport Safety through to December last year, continuing only in an honorary position.

In a statement, the FIA said Watkins had "made a unique contribution to motor sport, particularly in improving safety for F1 drivers, officials and spectators around the world".

It added: "He was highly respected as an acclaimed neurosurgeon, F1 medical delegate, chairman of the FIA Expert Advisory Safety Committee, and as the first President of the FIA Institute.

"Sid's experience, intelligence and endearing humour will be forever greatly missed."

FIA president Jean Todt said: "This is a truly sad day for the FIA family and the entire motor sport community.

"Sid was loved and respected in equal measure by all those who knew and worked with him. We will always be grateful for the safety legacy that he has left our sport."

Gerard Saillant, the FIA Institute president, added: "Sid was a true gentleman of our sport and always a pleasure to work with.

"He will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him, from doctors and drivers to officials and fans. Sid's influence will live on for many years to come."

PA

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday

Actress sees off speculation about her face in an amazing way

News

Florida mother launched a petition to ban the sale of the dolls

Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Extras
indybest
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
News
i100
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?