26 years of service. That is how long Watkins had served at the F1 fraternity. He was a world renowned neurosurgeon, but in 1978, Bernie Ecclestone offered him the position of official Formula One race doctor. In his first year of service, F1 driver, Ronnie Peterson crashed at the Italian Grand Prix, and passed away the next day. During that time, safety and medical facilities are close to non existence and Watkins arrived 18 minutes late after the crash. Following the tragedy, Watkins demanded Ecclestone to provide more safety equipment, an anesthetist, medical car and medical helicopter. By being the first person to respond to accidents on F1 tracks, Watkins had managed to save the lives of F1 drivers like Mika Hakkinen, Rubens Barichello, Martin Donnelly and Gerhard Berger. However, at Imola in the year 1994, where Roland Ratzenberger and his friend Ayrton Senna, whom both lost their lives, prompted Watkins in setting up the FIA Expert Safety Advisory Committee. The Committee was later renamed as FIA Institute for Motor Sport Safety. In 2004, Watkins retired as head of the organization. Watkins had been credited in increasing the safety aspect in F1 and it is worth noting that there have been zero on track facilities since Senna’s death in 1994.
RIP, Dr. Sid Watkins.