The 2019 Formula One season has started on a very sad note with the sudden and unexpected death of Charlie Whiting who was the FIA Race Director for the championship.
Whiting suffered a pulmonary embolism on Wednesday night in Melbourne and his passing at age 66 has devastated the sport.
As well as being race director Whiting was also the F1 safety delegate, the permanent starter for each race, head of the F1 Technical Department and the person responsible for ensuring compliance with FIA rules.
After an earlier involvement in the sport preparing saloon and rally cars with his brother and campaigning a Formula 5000 Surtees in 1976 for Divina Galica, Whiting joined the short-lived Hesketh F1 team.
He then spent ten years with Bernie Ecclestone’s Brabham F1 team and was chief mechanic for Nelson Piquet when he won the championship in 1981 and 1983.
The Englishman joined the FIA in the late '80s and in 1997 was appointed race director, going onto play a key role in formulating the sport's technical regulations.
During his 22 years as race director Whiting earned universal respect from teams and drivers for his firm but reasoned decisions, and was always ready to listen to enquiries and grievances from drivers and stakeholders.
Formula One is an incredibly expensive sport with a turnover in the billions so understandably the pressure from teams and manufacturers to get an advantage was immeasurable.
In the face of that Whiting displayed no fear or favour as demonstrated at the US GP at Indianapolis in 2005 when Michelin found that the tyres supplied to their seven contracted teams were deemed unsafe.
With no alternative tyre available Michelin requested that Whiting approve the installation of a chicane on the high speed turn 13 to eliminate the problem.
After careful and measured consideration Whiting said no as he believed it would be unfair on the teams who were able to race on the existing track with their tyre choice.
With that decision Whiting knew he would be condemned because it meant only seven cars took the start for the smallest race field in F1 history.
There have been countless tributes expressed right across the motor sport spectrum at this shock news and no doubt this weekend it will be tough for the F1 fraternity as they commence the new season.
“It is with immense sadness that I learned of Charlie’s sudden passing,” FIA President Jean Todt said.
“I have known Charlie for many years and he has been a great race director, a central and inimitable figure in F1 who embodied the ethics and spirit of this fantastic sport."
“F1 has lost a faithful friend and charismatic ambassador in Charlie," the former highly successful Ferrari F1 team boss said.
The first performance of the new Ford Mustang Supercar at the championship's opening round raised questions from some teams who feel the new car has an unfair advantage.
DJR/Penske Mustang drivers Fabian Coulthard and Scott McLaughlin took pole position in both top ten shootouts and McLaughlin won both 78-lap races with strong performances from the other four.
This weekend four races count towards the championship at the Australian GP in Melbourne and at the time of writing this column there are ominous signs for the opposition.
On Thursday in practice one Chas Mostert was almost half-a-second faster than the next car, and in practice two the first four places were Mustangs with all six cars in the top ten.
In the first qualifying session the first four cars were Mustangs and would have been five had Mostert not had his time deleted for exceeding track limits.
In the second session Mustangs finished one, two, four and five with Jamie Whincup's Holden in third.
Defending champion McLaughlin will start from pole in the first two races and if this early form continues you can bet there will be a call for parity adjustments.