Motor racing-Sid Watkins, F1 doctor who tended to Senna, dies

LONDON, Sept 13 Thu Sep 13, 2012 5:51am IST

Related Topics

Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers ride their camels as they rehearse for the "Beating the Retreat" ceremony in New Delhi January 27, 2015. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

"Beating The Retreat" Rehearsals

Rehearsals are on for "Beating the Retreat" ceremony which symbolises retreat after a day on the battlefield, and marks the official end of the Republic Day celebrations.  Slideshow 

LONDON, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Professor Sid Watkins, the Formula One doctor who tended to Ayrton Senna after his fatal crash at Imola in 1994 and who saved the lives of countless others through his work on safety, has died at the age of 84.

As word spread around Formula One of his death late on Wednesday, confirmed by a source close to the family, tributes poured in from drivers and all whose lives were touched by the wise-cracking neurosurgeon with a love of cigars and whisky.

They included Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, who suffered a huge crash on the same San Marino Grand Prix weekend that claimed the lives of Senna and Austrian Roland Ratzenberger.

"It was Sid Watkins that saved my life in Imola 94. great guy to be with, always happy...tks for everything u have done for us drivers. RIP," Barrichello said on Twitter to 1.7 million followers.

"RIP Prof. Sid Watkins. Sad news for us who stay behind," said Senna's nephew Bruno, who now races for the same Williams team that triple champion Ayrton was with when he crashed on a sunny afternoon in May 1, 1994.

Senna remains the last driver fatality in a Formula One race and much of the credit for the survival of others can be laid at the door of Watkins, known simply as 'Prof' by paddock regulars and 'Sid' by closer friends.

Northern Ireland's Martin Donnelly, Finland's double champion Mika Hakkinen, Austrian Gerhard Berger and F1 team founder Frank Williams all owed much to his quick response and care after life-threatening accidents.

Triple champions Jackie Stewart, another safety pioneer before Watkins came along, and Austria's Niki Lauda counted him as a friend.

"Today the world of motor racing lost one of it's true greats," said McLaren chairman and former team principal Ron Dennis, whose cars took Senna to all of his titles, in a statement.

"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 One as safe as it is today.

"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."

Watkins was brought in to the sport by Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone in 1978, shortly before the death of Swedish great Ronnie Peterson at Monza in September of that year.

The Briton worked closely with former International Automobile Federation head Max Mosley to improve track and car safety, stepping down as medical officer only in 2004 but continuing to play a role at the governing body as first president of its foundation.

In his book 'Life at the Limit: Triumph and Tragedy in Formula One" Watkins wrote of Senna's final days and how distraught the Brazilian was at Ratzenberger's death in qualifying.

Advising Senna not to race, he added: "In fact, why don't you give it up altogether? What else do you need to do? You have been world champion three times, you are obviously the quickest driver. Give it up and let's go fishing".

Senna's reply, the last words he spoke to Watkins, was simple: "Sid, there are certain things over which we have no control. I cannot quit, I have to go on." (Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

FILED UNDER:
Photo

After wave of QE, onus shifts to leaders to boost economy

DAVOS, Switzerland - Central banks have done their best to rescue the world economy by printing money and politicians must now act fast to enact structural reforms and pro-investment policies to boost growth, central bankers said on Saturday.

Reuters Showcase

ONGC Share Sale

ONGC Share Sale

ONGC share sale scheduled for this fiscal - oil minister  Full Article 

The Apple logo is pictured inside the newly opened Omotesando Apple store at a shopping district in Tokyo June 26, 2014. REUTERS/Yuya Shino/Files

Record Earnings

Apple iPhone sales trample expectations as profit sets global record  Full Article 

'Umrika' At Sundance

'Umrika' At Sundance

From Oscars to Sundance, Sharma and Revolori discuss India's 'Umrika'  Full Article 

Australian Open

Australian Open

Smooth Wawrinka, ill Serena through to Melbourne semis   Full Article 

India's Male Tenor

India's Male Tenor

India's lone male tenor aims to sing opera in local key  Full Article 

Japan Hostages

Japan Hostages

Mother of Japanese captive begs PM to save son held by Islamic State  Full Article 

Tripoli Attack

Tripoli Attack

Frenchman, American among those killed in Tripoli hotel attack - Libyan official.  Full Article 

U.S. Blizzard

U.S. Blizzard

Blizzard hits Boston and New England, spares New York despite forecasts.  Full Article 

Spying Row

Spying Row

Spying program leaked by Snowden is tied to campaign in many countries.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage