The family of Sid Watkins have extended their thanks to all those who have paid tribute to the former F1 doctor, who passed away in London yesterday evening.
In a short statement the family confirmed that, following a private funeral, there will be a memorial service in London.
The Watkins family statement said: “Professor Sid Watkins, Formula One doctor and leading neurosurgeon, died peacefully in a London hospital last night aged 84 after a short illness. His family would like to thank everyone for the many messages of support and the touching tributes from the world of motor racing, medicine and beyond. There will be a private family funeral in Scotland followed by a memorial service in London in the coming months, details of which will be announced shortly.”
The FIA and FIA Institute issued a joint statement: “Throughout his life Sid made a unique contribution to motor sport, particularly in improving safety for F1 drivers, officials and spectators around the world. He was highly respected as an acclaimed neurosurgeon; F1 medical delegate; chairman of the FIA Expert Advisory Safety Committee; and as the first President of the FIA Institute. Sid’s experience, intelligence and endearing humour will be forever greatly missed. Our thoughts are with the Watkins family at this difficult time.”
FIA President Jean Todt added: “This is a truly sad day for the FIA family and the entire motor sport community. Sid was loved and respected in equal measure by all those who knew and worked with him. We will always be grateful for the safety legacy that he has left our sport.”
Many past and current drivers sent tributes via Twitter. However their thoughts were summarised by the GPDA: “Thanks to his enormous efforts throughout more than two decades Formula One achieved its present safety standards. His contribution to Formula One with the improvements in the standards of safety and medical intervention in motor sport has been invaluable. He helped to save the lives of many Formula One drivers by modernising the medical intervention. Due to his work many serious injuries have been avoided since.
“All our thoughts are with his family in this sad moment. Professor Sid Watkins’ charisma and spirit will always be with us at all circuits around the world. We miss the great Professor and friend he was to many of us.”
Veteran team boss Sir Frank Williams, helped by Sid after his 1986 road accident, said: “Sid Watkins gained the respect and admiration of all the drivers throughout his time in Formula One. I know a number of them, throughout their time as racing drivers, looked to Sid for many different kinds of advice, in addition to his medical expertise. Perhaps most significant in my mind is that Sid was held in high regard by Bernie Ecclestone.
“He was in all respects a very special human being. In particular, his dedication to the safety of the drivers required endless persistence to achieve the safety standards and level of medical care that were necessary to save drivers’ lives.
“My own endorsement of Sid’s abilities goes without saying. He took splendid care of me when I spent 11 weeks in his hospital post-injury. After that I emerged as a human being who, if not fully mobile, could continue with a perfectly normal and healthy lifestyle. I remain forever grateful to him.”
McLaren Group boss Ron Dennis said last night: “Today the world of motor racing lost one of its true greats: Professor Sid Watkins. No, he wasn’t a driver; no, he wasn’t an engineer; no, he wasn’t a designer. He was a doctor, and it’s probably fair to say that he did more than anyone, over many years, to make Formula 1 as safe as it is today.
“As such, many drivers and ex-drivers owe their lives to his careful and expert work, which resulted in the massive advances in safety levels that today’s drivers possibly take for granted. But, more than that, Sid was a dear friend of mine, and I’ll miss him bitterly. To his widow Susan, and to his family, I extend my sincerest condolences. He was a truly great man, and the world of motor racing simply won’t be the same without him.”
Red Bull technical director Adrian Newey said: “Professor Sid Watkins became a very good friend over the years. He was one of the great characters of the sport, who quietly changed the nature of it with the advancement of safety. He was very passionate about motor racing in every respect and tried to ensure the health of it at all levels, including club level and national racing. He will be sadly missed.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner added: “It is with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Professor Sid Watkins. His contribution to the safety of Formula One has been enormous. Many drivers and personnel within Formula One owe him a great deal. Above all, he was a genuinely nice person and one of life’s real characters. I would like to pass on my sincere condolences to his family.”