In December of 2011, Sid Watkins retired as F1 ’s Institute President. In his career, Watkins was known as the man that saved many drivers’ lives with the safety innovations that he headed up and his medical services. He is also noted as the doctor that tended to Ayrton Senna following the 1994 crash that ultimately killed Senna, who also happened to be Watkins’ dear friend.
This man that was so well known for saving lives has now seen his own life come to an end. Just 10 months and two days following his retirement, Watkins has passed away at the age of 84 years old. This oft-light-hearted neurosurgeon was beloved by many F1 drivers not only for his advancements and medical treatment, but as a friend.
An example of the outpouring of support is the post on Rubens Barrichello ’s Twitter page, as he tweeted “It was Sid Watkins that saved my life in Imola 94. great guy to be with, always happy...tks for everything u have done for us drivers. RIP.”
A signs of just how dedicated Watkins was to his craft, at the 1995 Australian Grand Prix, Mika Häkkinen crashed during qualifying and was knocked unconscious. Watkins was the final doctor to arrive at the scene – two volunteers arrived within 15 seconds – and Watkins actually restarted Häkkinen’s heart twice, and then was forced to perform a cricothyrotomy – incision through the throat to create an unobstructed airway – while on the side of the racetrack. That ultimately saved the driver’s life and was one of Watkins’ crowning moments as a doctor.
Though F1 has lost one of its greats, Watkins’ achievements and memory as a life saving and protecting doctor will live on through many generations. Our condolences go out to his family, friends, and the entire F1 series.