Charlie Whiting, one of the most prominent figures in Formula 1 in recent years has passed away today, three days before the start of the season-opening 2019 Australian Grand Prix. Age 66, Whiting suffered pulmonary embolism this morning in Melbourne where he was due to officiate the season-opening race happening on March 17. 

“It is with immense sadness that I learned of Charlie’s sudden passing. 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 Jean Todt, FIA president. 

Whiting has been the official race starter for Formula 1 for quite some time, manning the five red lights at the start. He was also tasked with overseeing and enforcing FIA rules and regulations during races. Prior to becoming an FIA director, his Formula 1 career began back in 1977 working with the Hesketh team before moving to Brabham in the 1980s. He stayed with Brabham until joining the FIA in 1988, becoming an important part of the organization’s running of F1. It wasn't until 1997 was he appointed Race Director, a position he held until his passing.

“Formula 1 has lost a faithful friend and a charismatic ambassador in Charlie. All my thoughts, those of the FIA and entire motorsports community go out to his family, friends, and all Formula One lovers,” added Todt.

The FIA has not yet announced who will be replacing Charlie Whiting as new race director.