| LONDON, Sept 13
LONDON, Sept 13 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
"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
"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
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)