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Who was Sid Watkins, the F1 Professor without whom there would have been many more funerals in the sport?

2011 FIA Prize Giving Gala Ceremony
2011 FIA Prize Giving Gala Ceremony - In this handout image provided by FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile), (L-R) FIA President Jean Todt, Professor Sid Watkins and Gala MC Rory Bremner on stage during the 2011 FIA Prize Giving Gala Ceremony in Gurgaon, on December 9, 2011 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by FIA via Getty Images)

F1 in its modern form is fairly safe, with drivers routinely walking away from previously career-ending accidents with ease. Despite having a dark history of accidents, prominent personalities such as Professor Sid Watkins have made the modern iteration of the sport safe for its drivers.

Love this old picture, Prof Sid Watkins doing his rounds (credit @marksutton65 ?) https://t.co/Ly1saR1Wqx

Watkins was the sport's Medical Delegate for 26 years and was the first man drivers would see when they'd get into big accidents. Perhaps the sport's most silently important figure, Professor Watkins was a major advocate for safety in the sport.

Following the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger, the sport tightened up its safety regulations - and Watkins played a huge role in doing so. He was a close friend of Senna's and attended to him after the Brazilian's crash.

Watkins was a key player in the emergence of Head and Neck Support (HANS), a device that has saved multiple lives since its introduction. The professor sadly passed away in 2012 but is remembered fondly by the entire F1 fraternity.

Speaking at Watkins' funeral, three-time world champion Jackie Stewart said:

"Unfortunately, I attended way too many funerals and memorial services, but there would have been many more if we hadn’t had the Prof."

Former F1 Supremo Bernie Ecclestone claimed Watkins was 'irreplaceable' and lauded his efforts over the years.

"We owe him a lot of thanks for his care and determination. I'm pretty much sure he's irreplaceable. You meet someone of their calibre at most once in your entire life."
Dr. Sid Watkins and Ayrton Senna. https://t.co/Rn1UOW3MmE

Saudi Arabia hopes to be F1's new home

Saudi Arabia hopes to have F1 teams such as McLaren and Aston Martin set up operational bases in the Middle-Eastern nation, potentially making it the new home of the sport. Currently, seven out of the 10 teams have their bases in England, making the island nation the de facto home of the sport.

Prince Khalid, the president of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, claimed the nation has 'big companies that can help the future of the sport'. As the country owns an investment fund holding stakes in Aston Martin and McLaren, these two F1 teams are a top priority for the nation.

Speaking to Motor Sport Magazine, Prince Khalid said:

β€œThis is what we are hoping for and this is what we are working for. Hopefully, we can bring one of the big manufacturers. With all the investing we are doing in cars β€” the private investment fund bought shares in McLaren and Aston Martin β€” we are heading that way."
"Hopefully, we can open and bring headquarters to Saudi Arabia or we hire people that can help us manufacture cars or technology, to create our own brands and have our own IPs [intellectual property rights]."

It remains to be seen whether the sport will shift base to Saudi Arabia in the future. As it stands, the home of the sport is still in the UK.

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Edited by Arshit Garg
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