F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has spoken for the first time about the passing of his good friend, Professor Sid Watkins, who succumbed to a short battle with cancer on Wednesday night.
Watkins served as Formula 1’s chief medical officer for almost forty years, and was instrumental in driving safety and medical improvements in the sport which have led to countless drivers’ lives being saved under his watch.
In a statement published on the official Formua1.com website, Ecclestone praised Watkins’ legacy and the contributions he made to improving motorsport safety standards worldwide.
“What Sid Watkins did in the way of safety in Formula One was incredible,” Ecclestone said
“He gave his whole life to that cause, to make sure that it could be as safe as it possibly could be. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for his caring and commitment.
‘When I invited him to join Formula One as its official doctor partway through the 1978 season, we discussed many aspects of safety and medical issues. We agreed that we needed a proper hospital at the track in the form of a fully equipped medical centre to stabilise injured drivers with immediate treatment, and a helicopter to transport them subsequently to specialist facilities, and that the helicopter pad had to be as close to that trackside hospital as possible.
“Sid carried all of those things through, and many more. After the accidents to Jochen Rindt and then Ronnie Peterson, I suggested that he should have a medical intervention car and that he should take responsibility for taking drivers into medical care. We always talked things through and worked together, and he then took care of all the medical things which I knew nothing about. I am pretty sure that he is irreplaceable. You only meet somebody of his calibre once in your lifetime.”
Watkins family has in turn expressed gratitude for the many expressions of sympathy from the motorsport community. His family will hold a private funeral ceremony and will shortly announce details of a public memorial.