Sid Watkins the man behind the improvement in F1 safety standards has died aged 84. The neurosurgeon acted as the sports safety and medical delegate for the FIA and saved countless lives as the first response to any trackside crash.
Watkins officially became F1s race doctor after meeting Bernie Ecclestone in 1978 and would go onto help improve safety standards of the sport. A close friend of Ayrton Senna, Watkins had to attend to the crash that would claim Senna’s life at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. Following the death of Senna and that of Roland Ratzenberger at the same Grand Prix the FIA Expert Advisory Safety Committee was set up with Watkins as its chairman. The committee eventually became the FIA Institute for Motor Sport Safety and Watkins served as its president.
Watkins used his position to campaign for medical helicopters to be mandatory at race tracks and for medical cars to be put to better use at race weekends. He worked in his medical role until 2005 when he retired but he continued to campaign for greater safety in F1 using his role as president of the FIA Institute. Watkins finally stepped down from his position in 2011 but continued in an honorary role.
It is testament to his work that no F1 driver since Senna has been killed during a race. The contribution he has made to the sport has saved many high profile drivers involved in racing accidents which would have been fatal had safety not improved dramatically. His desire to continually improve the safety in F1 and the measures he went to in order to achieve that aim will never be forgotten.