Peace to the Fallen: Our remembered heroes
Coming into the Christmas period, we are once again done with the Formula 1 season and the wait is now on for F1 2020 to eagerly get underway. While it might have been a good season full of memorable, tense and dramatic moments, it has also sadly been a season of sadness, tragedy and grief. So, coming into this Christmas, I decided to take a look back at the closest three that we have lost, why they were relevant and their contribution to F1, and remember them fondly as we move towards another season of action.
Right on the eve of Formula 1 getting underway last March, the sport was forced to say goodbye to one of it's most beloved members – FIA race director Charlie Whiting. Whiting, who was born in Kent in 1952, first broke into motor sport preparing rally cars before running a Surtees chassis for Divina Galica in the 1976 British Formula F500 championship, before moving to Hesketh Racing the following year. Following the closure of the team, Whiting moved to Brabham where he became good friends with Bernie Ecclestone, and was chief mechanic for the team during Nelson Piquet's championship winning years in 1981 and 1983.
Whiting became a Technical Delicate to Formula 1 for the FIA in 1988 and by 1997, he was appointed as the official FIA Safety Delegate and Race Director for F1, a role he held until his sudden death. Whiting was in charge of car and track safety, numerous regulations within the sport and was also the official race starter, known as the man that controlled the starting lights at each Grand Prix. Whiting was also responsible for numerous safety advancements in F1 over the years, such as halo, the headrest and the safety survival cell. 2019 was to be a season like no other for Whiting, before a sudden pulmonary embolism stuck Whiting a day before the first free practice of the season, and he sadly passed away, aged 66. A man, known for his calm and nice demeanor as well as his hard work to keep his drivers safe, Charlie left an gap that could never be filled in Formula 1 for many people.
When the news broke that Niki had passed away last May after a long illness, it rocked the world of F1 with sadness and grief that still looms in the paddock. We know Niki's incredible and inspirational story by now, the three time world champion that defied death in a fiery crash at the Nurburgring in 1976 to come back as determined as ever. A brief retirement after leaving the Brabham team in 1979 saw a return and another championship with McLaren in 1984, showing he never lost his skill and talent behind the wheel.
After he hung up his helmet for good in 1985, Lauda went on to a managerial position in 1993 with his former Ferrari team and also a brief spell as Team Principal of the ill-fated Jaguar team in the early 2000's, but he will probably be most fondly remembered for his role as the non-executive chairman of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team, and as the man that convinced Lewis Hamilton to join the team in 2013. Lauda together with Mercedes team principal and friend Toto Wolff enjoyed dominating success with the team, which still continues to this day. Lauda spent the majority of 2018 away from the track as he underwent and recovered from a lung transplant, and sadly died in his sleep on the 20th May this year, leaving behind a legacy that can't be matched. Particular sadness affected the Mercedes team and understandably Wolff and Hamilton. Forever remembered for the famous red cap and the quirky and often smart one-liners, there will never be another person in F1 like Niki Lauda.
I know this doesn't particularly come under 'Formula 1', but it is an example of just how close the drivers are and that sadly, there is still a big risk in modern day motor sport. Anthoine Hubert was a 22 year-old French driver surely destined for great things. A stellar junior career bagged him a chance in GP3 (Now FIA Formula 3) in 2017 with ART, and the following year he won the title, becoming the last champion under the GP3 name. A step up in Formula 2 saw two inspiring wins in Monaco and France with BWT Arden, and he was also signed to Renault as a junior driver.
Then, during the support Formula 2 feature race during F1's Belgian Grand Prix last August disaster struck. While trying to avoid a spinning Giuliano Alesi at the top of Raidillon corner on the second lap, Hubert hit the outside tyre barrier, and in turn was hit by Sauber junior driver Juan-Manuel Correa. It was later confirmed that Hubert had passed away in the accident, leaving close friends, such as Pierre Gasly and Charles Leclerc, to his close family in attendance at the race, devastated. A stark reminder that the risk is still ever present at the expense of a very talented young man that was destined for so much, it is now our duty to race on and remember Anthoine in the process. Repose en Paix, Anthione.