Tag Archives: Sid Watkins

Tributes pour in for Professor Sid Watkins

The death of Professor Sid Watkins was reported last night, and has been confirmed by the FIA overnight.

Since then, tributes have been pouring in from all over the world – from drivers whose lives he saved, to close friends, to journalists and team managers. There isn’t enough space to fit them all here, but here’s the most moving:

The FIA and the FIA Institute extend their sincere condolences to the Watkins 
family on the sad news of the death of FIA Institute Honorary President 
Professor Sid Watkins.

Throughout his life Sid made a unique contribution to motor sport, particularly 
in improving safety for F1 drivers, officials and spectators around the world.

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.

Our thoughts are with the Watkins family at this difficult time.

Jean Todt, FIA President, 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."

Gérard Saillant, FIA Institute President, said: "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." 
-FIA Official Statement
Motor sport has lost a true visionary and character with death of Prof Sid 
Watkins. Great man, funny too. Saved my left foot being amputated. Sid was 
the 'go to' man for health in Motorsport. He helped, saved, or made more 
comfortable, numerous people who never sat in a racing car.

Sid would often prescribe ‘a stiff whisky and aspirin’ unless your leg was 
hanging off. His way of saying ‘just put up and get on with it’.
-Martin Brundle
Very sad to hear Prof Sid Watkins has passed away. Single handedly achieved a 
step-change in the safety of world motor sport.

My own interaction with Sid Watkins came when he looked after Martin Donnelly in 
intensive care at the Royal London. Inspirational and caring. The reaction to the 
passing of Prof Sid Watkins from the world of F1 will demonstrate just how highly 
he was regarded. By everyone.
-Mark Gallagher

Rest in Peace Sid Watkins...Motorsport wouldn't be what it is today without you. 
Thank you for all you've done, we as drivers are so grateful.
-Jenson Button
Sid Watkins gained the respect and admiration of all the drivers throughout his 
time in Formula One. I know a number of them, throughout their time as racing 
drivers, looked to Sid for many different kinds of advice, in addition to his 
medical expertise. Perhaps most significant in my mind is that Sid was held in 
high regard by Bernie Ecclestone.

"He was in all respects a very special human being. In particular, his dedication 
to the safety of the drivers required endless persistence to achieve the safety 
standards and level of medical care that were necessary to save drivers' lives.

"My own endorsement of Sid's abilities goes without saying. He took splendid care 
of me when I spent 11 weeks in his hospital post-injury. After that I emerged as 
a human being who, if not fully mobile, could continue with a perfectly normal and 
healthy lifestyle. I remain forever grateful to him.
-Frank Williams

Sid Watkins was one of the best men I have met in my life, totally selfless and the 
world has lost a great.
-David Coulthard
Prof was a great, great, man. Many drivers owe him their lives, including Mika 
Hakkinen & Rubens Barrichello. He made F1 safety what it is.
-Byron Young
RIP Prof Sid Watkins. You and Dr Gary Hartstein were my guardian angels rescuing 
myself from the F1 accident in 2001. We’ll miss you.
-Luciano Burti
Today the world of motor racing lost one of its true greats: Professor Sid Watkins. 
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 that he did more than anyone, over many 
years, to make Formula 1 as safe as it is today.

As such, 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. But, more than that, Sid was a dear friend of mine, and 
I'll miss him bitterly.

To his widow Susan, and to his family, I extend my sincerest condolences. He was a 
truly great man, and the world of motor racing simply won't be the same without him.
-Ron Dennis

Hundreds more messages show the impact that Sid had on the motoring world. Finally, I reccommend this article by Manish Pandley, who wrote and produced the Senna movie, one of the last men ever to interview Sid Watkins. Well worth 20 minutes of your time.

Former F1 medical delegate Professor Sid Watkins passes away

Professor Sid Watkins, former F1 Medical Delegate and pioneer of Formula 1 safety standards, has passed away at the age of 84.

Watkins spent 26 years as the Formula 1 Safety and Medical Delegate, and was usually the first responder in case of a crash. His efforts over the years have saved countless drivers, including Rubens Barrichello, Martin Brundle, Gerhard Berger, Martin Donnelly, Erik Comas, Mika Hakkinen and Karl Wendlinger.

Watkins was also well known for his close friendship Ayrton Senna, who died in April 1994.

Professor Sid, as he was known, was one of the primary catalysts of change in 1980s Formula 1, making immeasurable improvements to drivers’ safety. He famously prevented Nelson Piquet from racing in Imola 1987 after a crash in practice, threatening to retire after Piquet stated his intention to race. He eventually sat out the weekend, later stating that it was the correct decision.

He would put himself in immense physical danger to save a driver. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

At the Canadian Grand Prix [1982], Wakins had to deal with the fatal accident of Riccardo 
Paletti on the first lap of the race. Watkins got to Paletti's car 16 seconds after 
impact and opened the visor of the helmet to see his blown pupils. Then before any 
medical attention could be received, Paletti's car caught fire due to the petrol 
tank having ruptured and ignited. Watkins had suitable clothing to prevent him from 
suffering serious burns but his hands were affected. After he extinguished the fire, 
he took off his gloves to put an airway into Paletti's throat but Watkins' boots had
melted in the fire.

He is also responsible for saving 2-time world champion Mika Hakkinen’s life, restarting his heart twice and performing a cricothryoidotomy at the side of the track.

Watkins retired from his medical position in 2005, but decided to take up the role of President of the FIA Institute for Motor Sport Safety. He was succeeded by Gary Harstein, who had worked under Sid for many years.

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