12 August 1952
|Died||14 March 2019 (aged 66)|
|Known for||Safety improvements in motorsport|
Charles Whiting (12 August 1952 - 14 March 2019) was a British motorsports director. He served as the FIA Formula One Race Director, Safety Delegate, Permanent Starter and head of the F1 Technical Department, in which capacities he generally managed the logistics of each F1 Grand Prix, inspected cars in parc fermé before a race, enforced FIA rules, and controlled the lights that start each race.
Whiting was born on 12 August 1952 in Sevenoaks, Kent. He watched his first motor race when he climbed over the fence to see the 1964 British Grand Prix, held at Brands Hatch close to his family home. He came to working in motor racing himself through his older brother Nick, who was competing in autocross and circuit racing. Having decided to follow a career in race engineering, he attended a technical college and then the Borough Polytechnic Institute, earning qualifications in mechanical engineering.
Whiting's first job in motor sport was preparing rally cars. In 1976 he and his brother were running a Surtees in the 1976 British F5000 series for race driver Divina Galica. For the 1977 season Whiting joined Hesketh Racing. Following the demise of the team, he joined Bernie Ecclestone's Brabham team, where he would stay for the following decade, becoming chief mechanic for the World Drivers' Championship successes of Nelson Piquet in 1981 and 1983.
In 1988 Whiting became Technical Delegate to Formula One of the sport's governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), and in 1997 he was appointed FIA Director and Safety Delegate. In this role, he was responsible for track and car safety, the technical and procedural regulations of the sport and for starting the races themselves. He served as lead official at every Formula One race, being in charge of everything related to rules and their interpretation. Whiting also visited future and current venues of Formula One racing to carry out safety inspections.
During the 2005 United States Grand Prix, Whiting was involved in a controversy caused by the tyres which Michelin had brought to Indianapolis being unsafe to use. Michelin offered either tyres with a new specification to replace its seven customer Formula One teams' equipment or asked Whiting to install a chicane in Turn 13 of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway instead. He refused on the grounds a new specification would be a breach of the rule or the chicane would be unfair to the teams who were able to race safely on the existing track.
Whiting was known for safety improvements in motorsport, such as the halo, which was credited with preventing Charles Leclerc from suffering serious injury at the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix as well as saving Romain Grosjean's life at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix. Whiting was also responsible for introducing the head support, safety survival cell, front and side impact structures and high cockpit sides.
On the morning of 14 March 2019, in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, three days before the season opening Australian Grand Prix of the 2019 Formula One season, Whiting suffered a pulmonary embolism and died, aged 66. He predeceased his three children from two marriages.
In the hours after his death many F1 drivers and personalities commented that he was instrumental to the sport and its successes, being described as "a pillar for the sport", a "really nice guy" and a drivers' man. In an obituary, journalist Adam Cooper described Whiting as the "perfect man for the difficult role of referee" due to his calm demeanour.
Moments of silence were held before the starts of the Australian Grand Prix and the 1000 Miles of Sebring in his honour, his death was widely mourned in the motorsport world. Valtteri Bottas dedicated his Australian Grand Prix win to Whiting. Jean-Éric Vergne also dedicated his win at the Sanya ePrix to Whiting. He was posthumously named the recipient of the John Bolster Award at the Autosport Awards in December 2019.