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.


22 thoughts on “Good bye Charlie

  1. What a beautifully written tribute!

    On Thursday, March 14, 2019, A Former F1 Doc Writes wrote:

    > Gary Hartstein posted: “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” >

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  3. Thanks Doc for those words, they really represent what Charlie was, is! I had the chance to work with him in Montreal in Race Control, never a word higher then the others, he had so much respect for us and me for him!! A great man he was and we will surely miss him,the racing community will miss him!
    Rest in peace Charlie!!

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  5. A massive loss for his family, obviously, and for all those in the sport. A massive loss for the sport. Huge shoes to fill and I feel his loss will be felt for a long , long time.
    Given the stature of the man in the sport, and the kind of man he was, I just hope that his legacy as a sportsman and a human will be carried forth by all those who carry on. A very sad day.

  6. Gary,

    Your thoughts, your words are heartfelt.

    I never met Charlie Whiting, but there was an obvious respect given to him on the TV and the tributes just pour in, from those who really care about the sport.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    14th March 2019, is a VERY sad day for F1.

    Rest in Peace Charlie.

  7. How many other sports can you name where a ‘behind the scenes’ technical person was so highly thought of, respected and now mourned by the fans of the sport? This was the measure of the man – just look at all the lives he touched. Hearing the news this morning was so unexpected and his loss will be felt for a long time to come. My thoughts are with his family at this immensely difficult time. Godspeed Charlie Whiting, Rest in Peace.

  8. I have just been reflecting, over the last several weeks, about how remarkable it is that these guys can jet all over the planet, and function at such a high level, in spite of jet lag, etc. I had not been considering mortality risk. I suppose sitting in planes for so many hours puts one at significant risk of DVT. I am jumping to a conclusion with zero evidence that that is what took Charlie, but it may well have been. I just never ever thought about that when I considered the risks of motor sport.

    Gary, can you comment on how you and others deal with being able to deliver peak athletic and / or cognitive performance after flying many time zones away? I am sure that the schedule does not ever allow full acclimatization.


    Dr. Mike Hodish

    • I’m virtually certain that DVT/PE is what took Charlie from us. When I was involved in F1 I used LMWH prophylaxis for all flights over 6h or 4000 km. I also encouraged my teammates to do the same. As concerns function with jet lag, most of the drivers usually arrive early enough to adjust (1 time zone per day going east to west, a bit less going west to east). As to other team members . . . it’s called toughing it out. That said, there are commercial services that put together programs to hasten adjustment. These include pre-departure sleep/wake manipulation, use of blue lights at calculated times, and light avoidance when appropriate.

      • Amazing! This was my exact thought – which I even told to Ornella today – and I have no medical qualifications. I re call a journalist colleague in his 60s having a non-fatal bout of DVT during an F1 flight – or after it. The problem is that we begin to think we can tough out everything. I stopped wearing those circulatory leggings early in my travels the more confidence I gained. But it has nothing to do with confidence in our immortality, unfortunately.

  9. Gary, what a shock. If ever there was a life well lived, it was Charlie’s. So absolutely outrageous that he should be snatched away so young.

    Your writing, as always, is so beautiful and poignant. What a sad, sad day for the F1 community.

  10. Well spoken, sir. I miss your blog and your insights and appreciate you dusting off your keyboard in a tribute to Charlie.

      • Thanks Gary. No no, when I read a piece like this I am humbled as a writer. I’ve often thought of returning to Abu Dhabi lately, a trip with my girlfriend d Ornella. Maybe one day. Hope all is still going great for you. I recall our last meeting with pleasure.

      • All good here, Brad. You’re both welcome any time – there are a few great things to do here, then lots of delicious nothing to do. Summer is NOT the time to come though, weather gets good again around GP time until, well, now.

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