Today motorsport mourns the loss of Professor Sid Watkins, a wonderful man who engineered an era of safety into the sport that holds true today and a man whom many, both inside and outside the sport, look up to with great admiration and respect for everything he’s done. Writing obituaries is something that I very rarely do but I believe that a man like Sid deserves to have something written to reflect just how much important his contribution was to Formula 1. It’s incredibly easy to notice the amount of response this sad news has garnered from drivers, motorsport media, fans and even more so than that. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever heard a bad word being said against Sid which only further cements how well-regarded he is.
The wonderful thing about Sid Watkins is that he touched and changed many lives without possibly even realising it. Today I’ve been thinking about if it wasn’t for Sid, I wouldn’t have grown up being quite amazed by Mika Hakkinen and then going onto discovering Rubens Barrichello as the driver whom I’ve followed almost all my Formula 1 viewing life. If it wasn’t for his quick responses to the horrific crashes both Hakkinen and Barrichello had and saving their lives its very strange how different life could be for all kinds of reasons and it would be a fair understatement to suggest how much both drivers value what he did for them. This of course goes way up and beyond just Hakkinen and Barrichello; Sid figure headed a change in safety that Jackie Stewart had been pushing towards before him and his action had led to Formula 1 changing forever for many, many ways and I doubt there’s a driver in the sport that doesn’t think highly of the man for everything he’s done both past and present, and no doubt in the future too. We can easily complain about the health and safety parade making things too safe but when you look back at previous periods of history and the tragedy associated with these eras I don’t think there could possibly be enough thanks for the contribution he’s made to see the sport as safe as it is now. Can you imagine the likes of what happened to Robert Kubica in Canada and Felipe Massa in Hungary in previous decades?
Despite the sad news we should celebrate these things and everything he’s done for the sport we all love and follow. You read about his life and you see some of his stories and it blows you away how anyone is capable of the things he’s done over the last 84 years. From the many stories you’ll read of Sid, from the lives he’s saved to the changes he’s brought in, he was simply a man doing his job with no worries of the weight on his shoulders. Alex Brundle made a beautiful comment last night on Twitter expressing how thankful he was that he could grow up playing plenty of games of football with his dad Martin thanks to the services and knowledge Sid brought to motorsport. It’s easy to dash out the world legend for people but I’m not sure how else you could accurately describe a man who did this year in and year out despite the sights he would have no doubt seen over the years. As a fan I’m forever thankful that he’s made the sport safer than it’s ever been. Just last week at Spa, we had a very scary reminder for how dangerous motorsport can be and whilst we should never rest on the laurels of safety, we can be thankful that the stage we’re currently at is a stage that encourages safety rather than dismisses it like has been the case in the past. Motorsport is dangerous, motorsport will forever be dangerous, but Sid Watkins allows us to watch motorsport knowing this danger is kept in mind at all times. It’s something no one should ever forget.
I’m not great at this type of thing, and I know there are a million more things I could say in tribute to this wonderful man. But what I will I say on behalf of myself and every other Formula 1 fan is simple – thank you Sid. The things you did saved the lives in the most miraculous ways and will continue to do so, and whilst motorsport will never lose that dangerous edge, we can be safe in the knowledge that you’ve changed the sport we love forever for all the better.