Professor Sid Watkins has retired as president of the FIA Institute bringing down the curtain on his professional involvement in motor sport.
Watkins served for over 25 years as the F1 Medical Delegate, staring in 1978. He has saved many lives in many ways, wither through helping to make the cars and circuits safer or more directly, such as when he saved Mika Hakkinen’s life trackside after a heavy accident in Adelaide in 1995.
He will take up an honorary role with the organisation, but the presidency will now pass to Professor Gerard Saillant, who is a close ally of FIA President Jean Todt and who looked after Michael Schumacher’s rehabilitation form injury in 1999.
Watkins is a legendary figure in F1, having been brought in by Bernie Ecclestone to improve medical facilities at race tracks, he became more centrally involved in improving safety, working with the FIA on regulations to minimise the dangers to drivers from high speed accidents.
A close personal friend of Ayrton Senna, it is a tribute to Watkins that F1 has not lost a driver since the great Brazilian died in 1994. Watkins’s role in F1 is immortalised in the documentary film Senna.
Watkins became the first president of the FIA Institute when it was founded in 2004. It’s work, on the safety and sustainability of the sport, is funded by a grant from the FIA Foundation.
“There will always be accidents in motorsport, “says Watkins, ” But we have worked for many years to minimise the consequences. We research all areas of driver safety, from helmets and overalls to cockpit protection and collision prevention. F1 in particular has become much safer over the past 20 years.
That it has done so is largely the work of Watkins.
Professor Gérard Saillant said: “I have learnt a great deal from working with Professor Watkins and I now look forward to progressing his work as the new President of the FIA Institute. We have made great strides in motor sport safety and sustainability but there is always more to do and I am as committed as ever to ensuring these important developments continue.”
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