FIA race director Charlie Whiting passes away ahead of new F1 season

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Veteran Formula 1 figure, Charlie Whiting, has died just days before the start of the new season.

The Briton had been involved in the sport since 1977 first working with Hesketh and later Brabham before joining the FIA in 1988, taking on the post of race director from 1997.

It was the governing body who announced his surprise passing in a statement, announcing the 66-year-old has suffered a pulmonary embolism.

“It is with immense sadness that I learned of Charlie’s passing," said FIA President Jean Todt.

"Charlie Whiting was a great race director, a central and inimitable figure in Formula 1 who embodied the ethics and spirit of this fantastic sport. Formula 1 has lost a faithful friend and a charismatic ambassador in Charlie.

"All my thoughts, those of the FIA and entire motorsport community go out to his family, friends, and all Formula 1 lovers.”

Without Whiting, much of today's F1 would not have been possible with his work stretching far beyond the overall running of a race weekend, including inspections of perspective circuits to offer safety advice.

"I have known Charlie for all of my racing life," F1 motorsport director Ross Brawn added.

"We worked as mechanics together, became friends and spent so much time together at race tracks across the world. I was filled with immense sadness when I heard the tragic news. I'm devastated.

"It is a great loss not only for me personally but also the entire Formula 1 family, the FIA and motorsport as a whole. All our thoughts go out to his family."