Charlie Whiting
Charlie Whiting YouTube grab/ FIA

Charlie Whiting, who was the Race Director for FIA Formula 1, has passed away at the age of 66. He suffered a pulmonary embolism on Thursday morning in Melbourne where he was on duty to officiate this weekend's season-opening Australian GP. He was the official race starter and was the main man who oversaw all rules matters in F1.

Jean Todt, the FIA president, called Whiting "a central and inimitable figure who embodied the ethics and spirit" of F1. Todt added: "Formula 1 has lost a faithful friend and a charismatic ambassador in Charlie."

Ross Brawn, F1's managing director, said: "I have known Charlie for all of my racing life. We worked as mechanics together, became friends and spent so much time together at race tracks across the world.

"I was filled with immense sadness when I heard the tragic news. I'm devastated. It is a great loss not only for me personally but also the entire Formula 1 family, the FIA and motorsport as a whole. All our thoughts go out to his family," he added.

Whiting was previously associated with former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone's Brabham team as the chief mechanic and then as a chief engineer. The team won world championships in 1981 and 1983.

He began his sojourn with F1 back in 1977 with the Hesketh team before shifting to Brabham for 1978. He stayed put there before hopping across and joining FIA where he was a central part of the organisation's running of F1 ever since.

The F1 family was filled with remorse and offered their condolences:

Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton, who has been closely associated with Whiting since starting out in F1 in 2007, told BBC Sport he was "incredibly shocked to hear the sad news".

"What he did for this sport, his commitment, he really was a pillar. Such an iconic figure and he contributed so much."

Sebastian Vettel recalled that he had spoken with him on Wednesday and that it was extremely difficult to believe what has happened: "I walked the track for the first couple of corners with him. It is difficult to grasp when someone is just not there any more.

"He has been our man, the drivers' man. There's the regulation and then us, and he was the middle man. Any time his door was always open. He was a racer, just a very nice guy."