Prof Sid Watkins, OBE. Sad loss.
Image: Cahier Archive
Motorsport lost a legend with the passing of Prof Sid Watkins on Sept 12. Who? You might say. Well, here’s who he was, and still is. He changed racing safety, and so many people are thankful for his work.
By Andy Hallbery
The Prof… One of the nicest, calmest, relaxed, laid back people I have ever met. To the F1 stars and champions he was the guy that saved their lives. But his generosity did not stop there by any stretch. At one Grand Prix in 1990 I had a nasty mosquito bite on my hand, which swelled up so much, it hurt. One F1 team guy said: “Jesus, that looks nasty… You should go and see Prof about that.”
I was 23 at the time, a junior. Why would Sid treat me? So, nervous as hell I went to the medical centre, Sid was there, trademark cigar in hand. I introduced myself, apologised for wasting his time with something as trivial a bite on my hand. “Don’t be so silly, dear boy”, he said. He looked at it, gave me some pills that I swear would have tranquilised an elephant. “That should do it,” he said. “If not, come back tomorrow.”
Trivial, yes. It was just a bite on my hand! This is the guy that saved lives of F1 drivers, was a neurosurgeon between races, and raised the level of medical safety in racing beyond belief.
Martin Brundle, Sky TV commentator and former F1 racer: “Motor sport has lost a true visionary and character with the death of Prof Sid Watkins, 84. He was a great man, funny too. And he saved my left foot from being amputated.”
Here is how relaxed Prof was in the most demanding situations. Brundle again: “Sid would often prescribe ‘a stiff whisky and aspirin’ unless your leg was hanging off. That was his way of saying ‘just put up and get on with it.’”
Prof’s input to racing safety is immeasurable, and will last for a long time after his passing. Don’t take my word for it though.
Mario Andretti, 1978 Formula 1 World Champion on Twitter. “Just landed in California to the news of Prof Sid Watkins passing. Every driver will remember the contribution he made to the safety of our sport.”
Oliver Gavin, ALMS racer, and former Safety Car driver in F1: “During 1998 and ’99 I was lucky enough to spend every Grand Prix with Sid. I was driving the F1 safety car. So many stories, fantastic humour!
“It’s a very sad day in Motor Sport. Rest in peace Prof Sid Watkins,” continues Olly. “Every driver within the sport can thank him for his safety work. Remarkable man.”
Jenson Button also commented on Twitter: “Very sad day in Motor Sport. Rest in peace Prof Sid Watkins. Every driver within the sport can thank him for his safety work. Remarkable man.”
He was also one of the first on the scene when Ayrton Senna had has fatal crash at Imola 1994. He and Senna were very close friends, and holidayed together in peace and quiet, fishing. When they lifted the Brazilian out of the car and laid him down on the track, he breathed out for a long time, almost like a sigh “I knew right then Ayrton was gone,” said Sid.
As fishing buddies, all of the racing community that ever came across Prof, been helped by him, or just simply enjoyed his company, hope he and Ayrton are together again, fishing up there above the clouds.