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F1 in mourning after the death of devoted race director Whiting

 

Charlie Whiting
Charlie Whiting

By Alexander Britton

Charlie Whiting, who has died aged 66 on the eve of the Australian Grand Prix, was - to the casual Formula One spectator - the white-haired man who turned the lights green.

To the world of motorsport, he was so much more.

A fascination with motorsport stemmed from his youth, when he spent evenings and school holidays fixing up cars with his brother Nick in Kent.

Passion and vocation led to the opening foray into Formula One in 1977 working for Hesketh Racing, the start of more than four decades in the sport.

Hesketh would fold in 1978, and Whiting joined Brabham, owned by Bernie Ecclestone.

He rose through the ranks of the team and in the sport, and would go on to serve as chief mechanic for Nelson Piquet at his Championship successes in 1981 and 1983, and later chief mechanic for the team.

When Ecclestone sold the team, the lure of the poacher-turned-gamekeeper transition proved too strong and Whiting took up a role within the sport's governing body, the FIA, eventually becoming race director in 1997.

Over the last two decades, Whiting essentially became the sport's chief referee, analysing incidents, detecting wrongdoing and taking a lead in promoting safety within the sport.

Fairness and safety were key to Whiting, so often referred to as Charlie within the paddock and over the radio, particularly when drivers thought an incident warranted further investigation.

He would rigorously inspect circuits, check a range of new circuits on the GP calendar for suitability, as well as look at how safety could be improved within the car.

Whiting is credited with being among those who backed the introduction of the halo device, which helped Charles Leclerc avoid serious injury after a huge accident at last year's Belgian Grand Prix.

With more than 400 Grands Prix under his belt, Whiting was part and parcel of the sport.

Speaking about his role in 2017 to Top Gear magazine, he said: "I still love it. The buzz is extraordinary. It's rare I find myself thinking, 'Well, this is boring'."

Belfast Telegraph

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