MELBOURNE, Australia -- Just three days ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, news broke that Charlie Whiting, the FIA's director of Formula One, had died at the age of 66 after suffering a pulmonary embolism.
Whiting was one of the most admired, respected and loved figures in motorsport. He served over 40 years working in Formula One, including 22 seasons as the sport's race director. In his role he oversaw all track activity during grand prix weekends as well as managing other safety and technical matters in the sport.
It didn't take long for tributes to flow in as drivers and team principals reacted to the tragic news and spoke of the legacy Whiting will leave behind.
Sebastian Vettel - Ferrari
"I spoke to him yesterday and walked the track [together], the first couple of corners. Difficult to grasp when someone is just not there anymore. I've known him for a long time and he's been the drivers' man. Obviously there's the regulations and then there's us and he was the middleman, someone you could ask anything at any time. His door was always open and he was just a very nice guy. All of our thoughts, the whole paddock, the whole circus, the whole family of Formula One, are with him."
Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes
"Incredibly shocked this morning to hear the sad news. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. What he did for this sport, his commitment, he really was a pillar and such an iconic figure in the sporting world. He contributed so much to us. May he rest in peace."
Daniel Ricciardo - Renault
"It was not the nicest news to walk in to. Just taken aback by it for sure. He was there for us and we gave him a hard time, we really pressed him and pushed him and made him work, but he was always really receptive. You always felt like he was on our side. I remember my first Aussie GP in 2012, going up with Franz [Tost], he said go and introduce yourself to Charlie, start of a new season, go and start the relationship on a good note. Time goes fast."
Max Verstappen - Red Bull
"It was a big shock. I spent the day with him in Geneva a few weeks ago and we had a good chat about a lot of things. It's unbelievable. I guess we just have to appreciate every day and enjoy life, it's not only about Formula One but all the other things in life. His thoughts go to his family, friends and close ones."
Valtteri Bottas - Mercedes
"There were so many different things he was involved with, he was always taking all the notes during the drivers' briefings if we had any concerns regarding track improvements. If we felt something was odd, it could be something to do with the kerbs or how the marshals were working during sessions, he was involved in all of that. He had a massive impact in Formula One and in what it is nowadays. At this point it's difficult to imagine who can be there instead of Charlie to do the same job."
Toto Wolff - Mercedes
"I was shocked and saddened to hear the news of Charlie's passing this morning. He was a pillar of our Formula One family -- balanced in his approach, subtle in his understanding and always with the interests of Formula One as his main focus. He was a fantastic ambassador for our sport and a true guardian of its best interests; all of us who were lucky enough to know him will miss his ready smile and gentle humour. On behalf of the entire Mercedes motorsport family, I send our deepest sympathies to his family and friends."
Christian Horner - Red Bull Team Principal
"I am deeply saddened to hear the terrible news that Charlie passed away last night. Charlie has played a key role in this sport and has been the referee and voice of reason as Race Director for many years. He was a man with great integrity who performed a difficult role in a balanced way. At heart, he was a racer with his origins stretching back to his time at Hesketh and the early days of Brabham. On behalf of everyone at Aston Martin Red Bull Racing we pass on our sincere condolences to his family and friends. Charlie was a great man who will be sadly missed by the entire Formula One paddock and the wider motorsport community."
Sergio Perez - Racing Point
"It's very rare in this sport to meet such a peaceful, lovely guy. I have nothing bad to say about him. Nothing. It's only good things. Someone like him, it's going to be impossible to find a replacement. He's one of those key players in the sport and he had such a [great] relationship with all the drivers, with all the team principals, so it's going to be hard to replace him. He was just a big gentleman and someone I will definitely miss a lot."
Carlos Sainz - McLaren
"I remember my rookie year he spent a lot of time with me. He really wanted to listen to my opinion and it shocked me because I was a rookie and I thought my opinion didn't count much. But he gave me the opportunity, even if I was 20 years old and I had only done three races, he came to me, talked to me. I remember my first year being particularly aggressive and he was not coming to me to tell me to calm down, he was saying I think it's great what you are doing. When I heard the news today I was devastated."
Robert Kubica - Williams
"I saw Sebastian talking to Charlie yesterday and I thought I won't interrupt him because I will see him on Friday at the drivers' briefing, but unfortunately this will not be the case. It's very sad. He was an icon of Formula One. He was the kind of person you could always trust. My thoughts are with his family."
Ross Brawn - Formula One motorsport boss
"I have known Charlie for all of my racing life. 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 One family, the FIA and motorsport as a whole."
Jean Todt - FIA president
"It is with immense sadness that I learned of Charlie's passing. Charlie was a great race director, a central and inimitable figure in Formula One who embodied the ethics and spirit of this fantastic sport. Formula One has lost a faithful friend and a charismatic ambassador in Charlie. All my thoughts, those of the FIA and entire motor sport community go out to his family, friends, and all Formula One lovers."