Formula One’s Race Director Charlie Whiting passed away on Wednesday night at age 66. The FiA (Federation Internationale De L’Automobile) put out a on Wednesday statement saying that he suffered pulmonary embolism. “I have known Charlie Whiting for many years and he has been a great Race Director, a central and inimitable figure in Formula One who embodied the ethics and spirit of this fantastic sport,” said FIA President Jean Todt in the statement.

The loss comes before F1’s inaugural 2019 race weekend in Australia. On Thursday a press conference was held where drivers reflected on Charlie Whiting and his impact. “I spoke to him yesterday… Difficult to grasp when somebodies just not there anymore,” said Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel. Whiting first became involved in F1 in 1988 when he was a Technical Delegate for the sport.

“We just have to appreciate every day and every morning you wake up and that you enjoy life and that it’s not only about Formula 1 but a lot of other things in life,” said Max Verstappen, reflecting on Whiting’s sudden passing. Verstappen also told a story about how he chatted with Whiting in Geneva recently. F1 put out a tribute video online on Thursday which recapped his career in motorsport and his impact on the sport.

Sky Sports have released out an interview where current F1 Managing Director and former driver now Motorsport journalist Martin Brundle reflected on Whiting.
It has been reported that Michael Masi will be the race director for this weekend. Masi has formerly worked in a similar position with the V8 Supercars series.