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SBD Global/September 14, 2012/People and Pop Culture

F1 Community Mourns Loss Of Professor Sid Watkins Who Died At Age 84

Professor SID WATKINS, the F1 doctor who tended to AYRTON SENNA after his fatal crash at Imola in '94 and who saved the lives of countless others through his work on safety, "has died at the age of 84," according to Alan Baldwin of REUTERS. Watkins was brought in to the sport by F1 CEO BERNIE ECCLESTONE in '78, shortly before the death of Swedish great RONNIE PETERSON at Monza in September of that year. The Briton worked closely with former Int'l Automobile Federation (FIA) head MAX MOSLEY to improve track and car safety, stepping down as medical officer only in '04 but continuing to play a role at the governing body as first president of its foundation. In his book "Life at the Limit: Triumph and Tragedy in Formula One" Watkins wrote of Senna's final days and how distraught the Brazilian was at [ROLAND] RATZENBERGER's death in qualifying. Advising Senna not to race, he added: "In fact, why don't you give it up altogether? What else do you need to do? You have been world champion three times, you are obviously the quickest driver. Give it up and let's go fishing." As word spread around F1 of his death late on Wednesday, confirmed by a source close to the family, "tributes poured in from drivers and all whose lives were touched by the wise-cracking neurosurgeon with a love of cigars and whisky." They included Brazilian RUBENS BARRICHELLO, who suffered a huge crash on the same San Marino Grand Prix weekend that claimed the lives of Senna and Austrian Ratzenberger. Barrichello said on Twitter to 1.7 million followers, "It was Sid Watkins that saved my life in Imola 94. great guy to be with, always happy...tks for everything u have done for us drivers. RIP." Senna remains the last driver fatality in a F1 race and "much of the credit for the survival of others can be laid at the door of Watkins," known simply as "Prof" by paddock regulars and "Sid" by closer friends. McLaren Chair and former team Principal RON DENNIS, whose cars took Senna to all of his titles said in a statement, "Today the world of motor racing lost one of it's true greats. 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 One as safe as it is today" (REUTERS, 9/13).

'A SAD DAY': The London DAILY MAIL wrote that F1's current medical delegate GARY HARTSTEIN, who learned his trade for seven years under Watkins' wing, said: "For a long time I wanted to call him every time I had to make a decision. Then I just started thinking 'what would he do in this situation? And finally, for better or for worse, I realised I was doing just what he'd do (but probably not as well). When I told him this a few years ago, he smiled and said "Of course old boy! You've had a bloody great teacher!" FIA President JEAN TODT 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." FIA Institute President GERARD SAILLANT added: "Sid was a true gentleman of our sport and always a pleasure to work with" (DAILY MAIL, 9/13).
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