Good bye Charlie

First of all, I want to send my condolences and all my sympathy to Juliette and the kids – you have a beautiful family, and you’re a wonderful dad. I know that you’ve already given your children the essence of yourself – honesty, a sense of fairness, tact, and a proper work ethic. This will live on in them, and is a legacy to be proud of.

I know this will embarrass you Charlie, but I honestly can’t conceive of Formula 1 without you. You’ve been there since I started, one of the first people Sid introduced me to. You were the Technical Delegate then.

This will also embarrass you, but think about it – how many people in the fraught and contentious environment of modern F1 are unanimously appreciated, respected, sought after, and admired? You don’t need half of one hand to count them. You’d be on all the lists. I don’t mean everyone agreed with every decision; that’s trivial. What I mean is that you’ve established ¬†over the decades a foundation of integrity and credibility that has essentially never been seen in the sport.

Usually when it’s said about someone that he or she has a good political sense there’s a negative connotation. Obviously to have survived, and thrived, through the politics of F1, ¬†through so many years, you have clearly had such a political sense. But in your case it’s been natural, not contrived. Not calculated. You just know how to talk to people – when to be hard and when to be soft. When to be a teacher and when to be a schoolmaster. You understand the art of taking your ideas and making the other guy think they’re theirs.

You, Max and Sid were the three people most responsible for the evolution in safety over the past 30 years. It was Max providing the impetus and the wherewithal, Sid the data-driven structure, but it was you Charlie who actually made sure the engineering hit the targets.

You worked hard, very hard, VERY VERY hard, but dinners with “Herbie” and others (Martin, Gerhard, the list goes on) were full of laughs and fun. And I’m pretty sure you always chose the wine.

Your memory staggers me – details of every corner of every circuit, details of incidents from years before and how they related to the incident under question at TODAY’S driver’s briefing. Hell, I never remembered who won the last race.

Your impact on the sport is so wide, and so deep, that I always wondered what we’d ever do when you retired. Your charisma, smile, lovely accent, and incredible silver gray mane always reassured me that that day wouldn’t come any too soon.

And now this.

We’re gonna miss you. Way more than you’d ever be comfortable with. Way more than most of us will ever be comfortable with. You were an advisor, a buddy, a boss. I can almost not bring myself to use the past tense.

Do me one favour Charlie. Open a great bottle of Brunello and split it with Prof. We’ll be happy knowing you’re both laughing and draining your glasses.

Bye Charlie. I’m privileged to have known you.