Join Date: Aug 2008
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FIA Safety pioneer Sid Watkins dies, aged 84
Professor Sid Watkins, the former FIA medical delegate credited with bringing huge improvements in safety and medical provision to Formula One racing, has passed away at the age of 84.
During an F1 career spanning over 25 years, Watkins, affectionately known in the paddock as ‘the Prof’, helped save the lives of countless drivers including Rubens Barrichello, Didier Pironi and Mika Hakkinen.
It was Watkins who tended to Ayrton Senna after his crash at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, and following that fatal Imola weekend, which also cost Roland Ratzenberger his life, the English neurosurgeon worked to establish the body now known as the FIA Institute for Motor Sport Safety.
Born in Liverpool in 1928, Watkins began working at UK racing circuits in the early 1960s, before taking up a university post in New York, where his motorsport interest continued at Watkins Glen.
He was offered the F1 medical delegate role by Bernie Ecclestone in 1978, at a time when the standard of medical facilities varied hugely between venues, despite serious accidents and injuries being commonplace.
Over the next 26 years Watkins worked tirelessly to improve that situation, helping bring universal standards to circuit medical centres, teams and cars, and making the presence of a medical helicopter mandatory at F1 events.
Watkins retired from active Formula One duty in 2005, but continued to campaign for safety improvements in motorsport through his role as the first president of the aforementioned FIA Institute. He stepped down from that position in 2011, retaining an honorary role.