Professor Sid Watkins served as the Formula 1 Medical delegate from 1978 to 2004 and through the years he saved lives of many F1 drivers, most notably Rubens Barriechelo, Mika Hakkinen,Gerhard Berger, Martin Donnelly, Érik Comas, and Karl Wendlinger.
Sadly he couldn’t save the life of his very close friend Aryton Senna and also of Ferrari legend Gilles Villenueve.
He died at the age of 84 from cancer in a London Hospital.
Professor Sid Watkins was an eminent neurosurgeon and was appointed by Bernie Ecclestone as the FIA medical delegate. Bernie had great faith in Sid Watkins and if Watkins found a circuit’s safety facilities to be inadequate, Ecclestone threatened to cancel the race.
He has written two books about formula 1: Life at the Limit (1996) and Beyond the Limit (2001)
Professor Sid Watkins played an instrumental role in development of various safety devices which have saved lives of millions of racing drivers all over the world. Following Aryton Senna’s death, FIA set up a committee to improve driver’s safety. Sid Watkins was a part of that committee and played a very important role in introduction of the HANS device.
Following the news, many F1 drivers paid tribute to Sid Watkins on their twitter page. Here are some of their tweets:
Jenson Button: “Rest in Peace Sid Watkins…motorsport wouldn’t be what it is today without u. Thank you for all you’ve done, we as drivers are so grateful.
David Coulthard: “Sid Watkins was one of the best men I have met in my life, totally selfless and the world has lost a great”
Martin Brundle: “Motor sport has lost a true visionary and character with death of Prof Sid Watkins, 84. Great man, funny too. Saved my left foot being amputated.
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’.
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.”
Rubens Barriechello: “It was Sid Watkins that saved my life in Imola ’94. Great guy to be with, always happy… thanks for everything you have done for us drivers. RIP
Nick Heidfield: “Sad news that Sid Watkins; one of the most helpful persons in/for motorsport has passed away. My thoughts are with him, his family and friends.
Johny Herbert: “Really sad news that Prof Sid Watkins passed. My heart goes out to his family and friends. Will miss your great sense of humour. RIP
Alexander Wurz: “Just saw the news that Sid has passed away. That news hurts.”
Luciano Burti: “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.”
Lewis Hamilton: “It’s a sad day, with the loss of professor Sid Watkins. Without his incredible contribution to the sport, our lives as drivers would be a risk. My condolences go out to his family”
Narain Karthikeyan: “R.I.P. Prof. Watkins, your work will truly be missed”
Heikki Kovalainen: “Sad to hear professor Sid Watkins has past away, one of the true greats in motorsport. R.I.P”
Bruno Senna: “RIP Prof. Sid Watkins. Sad news for us who stay behind”
Our sincere condolences to Sid Watkin’s family and friends. Rest in Peace!
Watkins is survived by his wife Susan and his six children.