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Jonathan Palmer pays tribute to Professor Sid Watkins

Thursday, September 13 2012

MotorSport Vision Chief Executive Jonathan Palmer has paid tribute to Professor Sid Watkins, who passed away yesterday. Known to many in the sport simply as 'Prof', Watkins attended his first race in a medical capacity at Brands Hatch in 1961 and 17 years later returned to the Kent circuit for his first event as Formula 1's Safety and Medical Delegate, a position which he held until 2005.

Watkins' achievements in F1 spread throughout motorsport, making a huge contribution to safety, not just from improved trackside assistance but through his role advising the FIA on chassis design and circuit facilities. His role in the sport was recognised by the wider public following his appearance in the film Senna, with whom he enjoyed a close friendship.

Watkins also saved the lives of many F1 drivers, including Martin Donnelly, Rubens Barrichello and Mika Hakkinen, as well as personally intervening in Frank Williams' recovery, following his near-fatal road accident. Following retirement he continued to work with the FIA as President of the Institute for Motor Sport Safety, and had already written two volumes of his memoires: Life at the Limit and Beyond the Limit. He also enjoyed a good relationship with many of the drivers, including Jonathan Palmer.

"I am very sorry to hear of the passing of Prof Watkins," said Jonathan. "Sid made a huge contribution to F1 racing, particularly in the 80s and 90s. He was very concerned with the safety and welfare of drivers and apart from being a top neurosurgeon, was also a friend and confidante to so many in the paddock. Sid's professional expertise and judgement commanded enormous respect and inspired drivers with confidence, whilst he was also very amusing company with a very pragmatic view on things!

"As a fellow doctor we had a close relationship, particularly as my neurosurgeon brother James was Prof Watkins' junior doctor at the London hospital in the eighties. Professor Sid Watkins was a larger than life character whose skills and passion for motorsport lead to a remarkable prominence for a chief medical officer within F1."