Formula One racing director Charlie Whiting has died suddenly, causing shock and dismay among drivers, team bosses, and fans. The 66-year-old Englishman, who had a connection to F1 dating back to 1977, died in Melbourne from a pulmonary embolism on Thursday, three days before the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, the AP reports. Five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton described Whiting as a pillar of Formula One and an icon of the sport. Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel recalled the veteran race director being a "driver's man" and a diplomat.
Whiting was active in making F1 a safer sport and was widely acknowledged as a calming influence. "I spoke to him yesterday and walked the track for the first couple of corners together with him," Vettel told a news conference that had been scheduled to officially open the first F1 racing weekend of the season. "It's difficult to grasp when somebody is just not there anymore." The news conference started instead with drivers praising Whiting's contribution to their sport. "He's been sort of our man—the driver's man," Vettel said. "There's the regulations, then there's us—he was the middle man ... He was a racer—just a very nice guy. All our thoughts, the whole family of Formula One, are with him."
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