Earlier today I found out that FIA F1 Race Director Charlie Whiting had passed away. I immediately went to the Fake Charlie Whiting Twitter account to confirm if this was true. As an F1 fan it’s really unfortunate. Charlie had a great personality and his ability to accept Fake Charlie Whiting showed his sense of humor. How many followers of other sports are fans of those that enforce the rules? How many “players” in other sports will go on walks with those rulemakers.
And this news hit me hard today because it hits me hard whenever we lose people in motorsports. If someone randomly has an incident at a track day, those are my people and I hurt. When Richard Reins, a corner worker at Laguna Seca, was killed late last year that hurt really badly. I couldn’t imagine what the driver, who is also an Engineering Manager, felt in the days that followed. These memories take me back to watching my childhood hero crash in to a wall at nearly 200mph at the Daytona 500 my senior year of high school. Those cut from the motorsport cloth know the risk on the track but expect a bit of immortality on, but especially off, the track.
Shortly after my high school graduation Jimmy Eat World released the album Bleed American. I can hear the intro riff simply by typing those words.
“I’m not crazy because I take the right pills every day.”
I’m an odd one. I grew up in the South. American. Hanging flags in my college dorm. That kind of ‘murican. But over time my bleeding american has turned in to bleeding out american. I was a dedicated Atlanta Braves fan but turned my back on baseball for a distinctively Canadian sport. I lived, ate, breathed NASCAR only to become a Perrier-drinking sports car and F1 follower.
To most Americans Charlie Whiting’s passing will be non-news. They’ve never heard the name. For me, it hints that we are too insular, too elitist, too “American”.
You will be missed. You moved the sport in non-obvious and non-flashy ways, working behind the scenes to deliver and steer a product to the delight of millions. If we could all be so committed, so lucky, and so able to make an impact at that scale. Rest in peace, Charlie.