Formula One’s 10 teams are working with motor racing’s governing body, the FIA, to find a long-term successor to race director Charlie Whiting.
Whiting died suddenly on Thursday morning aged 66 after suffering a pulmonary embolism, just three days before the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. His role was vital to the sport: as well as overseeing the FIA’s operation of all on-track sessions, Whiting would oversee the start of every race and had a key role in dealing with safety and technical matters.
Whiting was a revered and respected figure in F1, having held the job since 1997 and been involved in the championship as far back as 1977 when he was a mechanic for the Hesketh team. His death prompted tributes from key figures across the racing world.
There had already been discussions about who his long-term replacement would be whenever he decided to step away from the job, but there was no immediate succession plan. As a contingency the FIA has named Michael Masi as the replacement race director, safety delegate and permanent starter for this weekend’s race.
FIA president Jean Todt did not elaborate on details beyond this weekend, only saying plans were being drawn up.
“You can imagine that we were caught by surprise,” he said. “Now we are faced with this emergency situation for the weekend we are having one emergency plan, who we are sure will be able to deliver a good job, while working very closely with the Formula One teams.
“We have started to see what we are going to implement for the future. The future of the organisation of this F1 department is something we have touched on now for quite a while including with Charlie because we knew he would not be able to have the position for ever, so we were working and thinking about a future plan. Unfortunately we will have to implement that earlier than what we were hoping.”