“A pillar of our Formula 1 family.”
“One of its most loyal and hard-working ambassadors.”
“A central and inimitable figure in Formula 1 who embodied the ethics and spirit of this fantastic sport.”
“Charlie’s contributions to F1 go beyond measure and his loss leaves a huge void.”
It’s no exaggeration to say Formula 1 has lost one of its most iconic figures, following the sudden death of Charlie Whiting at the age of 66.
Whiting was the go-to man for so many in the paddock. If you had a technical query, you sought clarification from him. If there was an on-track incident, you asked him about the decision. Want to know about how a race was handled? Charlie was the guy.
He was the sounding board for the drivers. Chairing every pre-race briefing, he listened to their questions, explained decisions to them, took on board comments that could make the racing safer, and better. You’d often hear drivers complaining on team radio, telling their teams to pass on a message to Charlie. When the lights went out, he was in charge.
Of course, Whiting was in charge even before the lights went out, as the F1 starter he pressed the magic button that saw those five red dots come on and then go off. His influence was just so far and wide.
The tributes flooded in from teams, drivers, bosses, suppliers, even circuits. And they all rang so true. Whiting was involved in so many different ways. It’s a testament to his ability and passion that it’s unthinkable just one person can take on all the roles he held.
With his passing on Thursday morning, the first day back in an F1 paddock at a grand prix — usually so filled with excitement and anticipation at the start of a new season — became one of shock and sadness.
It was all anyone could talk about. It genuinely was like everyone within F1 didn’t know what to do with themselves, because everyone felt like they knew Charlie. He was polite, funny, softly spoken but so willing to talk. To everyone.
There was no talk of ‘How was your winter?’ or ‘How’s the jet lag?’. It was all ‘Have you heard the news?’ Each media session started with discussions about Charlie. Memories from drivers or team bosses, all talking about the impact he had on the sport and the people in it.
The first session of the day — with Haas F1’s Guenther Steiner — was obviously somber in tone, but after a while talking about what had happened, there was a large pause where nobody said a word. Nobody wanted to move it on, to talk about anything ‘normal’, to look ahead to the first race of the season.
And in reality, none of the rest really mattered.
A racer through and through, his loss hits so many because Charlie had time for so many. And that’s because they all shared his passion for F1.
The sport is a better place because of him, and a poorer place without him.