Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen and Mercedes AMG Motorsport’s Lewis Hamilton have all paid tribute to Charlie Whiting following the FIA Race Director’s sudden passing ahead of the Australian Grand Prix weekend at Albert Park.
Whiting was in Australia and had spoken to Vettel during the German’s track walk on Wednesday only to suffer a pulmonary embolism that caused his death at the age of sixty-six, and the four-time World Champion has admitted he is in shock.
“I guess I was as shocked as we all still are now, especially since I spoke to him yesterday and walked the track for the first couple of corners together with him,” said Vettel ahead of the Australian Grand Prix. “It’s difficult to grasp when somebody is not there any more.
“I have known him for a long time and he has been our man, the drivers’ man. Obviously there are regulations and all that, and then there is us, and he was the middle man.
“Someone could ask anything at any time, he was open to everyone and his door was always open. He was a racer and a very nice guy.”
Verstappen spent some time with Whiting at a stewards’ convention, and he says his passing proves that it is important to appreciate every day and make the most of life.
“It was a big shock – because I spent the day with him in Geneva, and we had a good chat about a lot of things,” said Verstappen. “When I left, I said ‘see you in Australia for another season of racing’. So when you hear this news, it is unbelievable, at 66 years old.
“You have to appreciate every day and every morning that you wake up and enjoy life. It is not only about F1 it is about other things in life, so this is just one part of it.
“I think at the moment what is the most important is that the thoughts are going to his family and friends and close ones.”
Reigning World Champion Hamilton is also in shock at the passing of ‘a pillar’ of Formula 1, with Formula 1 losing an iconic member of its community.
“I was incredibly shocked to hear the sad news and my thoughts and prayers are with his family,” said Hamilton. “What he did for this sport, his commitment, he really was a pillar as Toto [Wolff] said.
“Such an iconic figure in the sporting world. May he rest in peace.”