Bernie Ecclestone has paid tribute to Prof Sid Watkins, the man he headhunted for the F1 doctor role back in 1978.
The two men became close friends, and Bernie even allowed Sid’s author wife Susan to write a book about him.
“What Sid Watkins did in the way of safety in Formula One was incredible,” said Ecclestone on the official Formula 1 website. “He gave his whole life to that cause, to make sure that it could be as safe as it possibly could be. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for his caring and commitment.”
When he hired Watkins Ecclestone gave him authority to do whatever it took to improve medical care at F1 races.
“When I invited him to join Formula One as its official doctor partway through the 1978 season, we discussed many aspects of safety and medical issues. We agreed that we needed a proper hospital at the track in the form of a fully equipped medical centre to stabilise injured drivers with immediate treatment, and a helicopter to transport them subsequently to specialist facilities, and that the helicopter pad had to be as close to that trackside hospital as possible.
“Sid carried all of those things through, and many more. After the accidents to Jochen Rindt and then Ronnie Peterson, I suggested that he should have a medical intervention car and that he should take responsibility for taking drivers into medical care.
“We always talked things through and worked together, and he then took care of all the medical things which I knew nothing about.
“I am pretty sure that he is irreplaceable. You only meet somebody of his calibre once in your lifetime.”