Daily Archives: September 12, 2012

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.