By G9ija

Charlie Whiting, the head of Formula 1 for governing body the FIA and one of the most influential people in the sport for decades, has died aged 66.

Whiting suffered a pulmonary embolism on Thursday morning in Melbourne, where he was due to officiate this weekend’s season-opening Australian GP.

Whiting was the official race starter and oversaw all rules matters in F1.

FIA president Jean Todt called Whiting a central and inimitable figure who embodied the ethics and spirit of F1.

Whiting had worked for the FIA since 1988, when he joined initially as technical director.

He was previously chief mechanic and then chief engineer of former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone’s Brabham team, which won world championships in 1981 and 1983.

Whiting began his F1 career with the Hesketh team in 1977, moving to Brabham for 1978 and staying there until he joined the FIA, where he had been a central part of the organisation’s running of F1 ever since.

Charlie was a great man who will be sadly missed by the entire Formula 1 paddockChristian HornerRed Bull team principal

Todt added: “Formula 1 has lost a faithful friend and a charismatic ambassador in Charlie.”

Ex-team boss Ross Brawn, now F1’s managing director, said: I have known Charlie for all of my racing life. We worked as mechanics together, became friends and spent so much time together at race tracks across the world.

I was filled with immense sadness when I heard the tragic news. I’m devastated. It is a great loss not only for me personally but also the entire Formula 1 family, the FIA and motorsport as a whole. All our thoughts go out to his family.”

Whiting’s death leaves a hole in the FIA’s organisation of the Australian Grand Prix – he was the go-to person for teams on all matters pertaining to an F1 weekend.

The FIA has not yet announced how he will be replaced.

The McLaren team paid tribute to Whiting, tweeting: All at McLaren are shocked and deeply saddened at the news of Charlie Whiting’s passing. Charlie will be remembered as one of the giants of our sport, as well as a great colleague.”

Red Bull Racing said the team was shocked and saddened at the news. Team principal Christian Horner added: Charlie has played a key role in this sport and has been the referee and voice of reason as race director for many years.

He was a man with great integrity who performed a difficult role in a balanced way. Charlie was a great man who will be sadly missed by the entire Formula 1 paddock and the wider motorsport community.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff described Whiting as a fantastic ambassador for our sport and a true guardian of its best interests.

Renault described him as one of the pillars and leaders of the sport, while British driver George Russell, who will make his F1 debut for Williams this weekend, called Whiting a huge figure in the world of motorsport, adding: We’ll all miss him very much.

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc said: Horrible news from Melbourne. All my thoughts goes to Charlie’s family. The motorsport world will miss you. R.I.P.

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