F1 doctor lived in fast lane

01:27, Sep 27 2012

Professor Sid Watkins, OBE. Consultant surgeon, Formula One Constructors' Association, 1978-2004, and president, FIA Institute for Motor Sport Safety, born September 6, 1928; died September 12, 2012.

A neurosurgeon of wide experience who developed an interested in motorsports medicine in the late 1950s, Sid Watkins became the official Formula One doctor in 1978. For the next 25 years, he led advances in trackside medical attention which transformed grand prix racing. He was known throughout the sport's fraternity as "the Prof".

Since 1994, when the FIA Expert Advisory Committee was set up in the wake of the death of Ayrton Senna at the San Marino Grand Prix, with Watkins in the chair, there has not been a fatality in Formula One.

This was not achieved without his experiencing many of those traumatic events which are inseparable from a dangerous sport that tests the limits of human driving skill.

As a trackside doctor, Watkins was instrumental in saving the lives of, among others, Gerhard Berger, Martin Donnelly, Mika Hakkinen (on whom he performed a remarkable trackside resuscitation), Rubens Barrichello, and Karl Wendlinger. He was present at the death, in his own F1 debut year as trackside doctor, of Ronnie Peterson, and in 1994 of Ayrton Senna.

Senna was a friend of Watkins, and his death, following that of the Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger and injuries to Rubens Barrichello at Imola that weekend, was at the nadir of Formula One.

Watkins was at the heart of a determination that Formula One had to become a less lethal sport at all levels for its participants. The last 10 years as F1 doctor were devoted to bringing that aim as close as humanly possible, without detracting from the sheer thrill of grand prix racing. The Times


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