Formula One: Stewart calls for permanent Watkins memorial

Sir Jackie Stewart, one of the greatest drivers in Formula One history, is leading calls for a permanent memorial to honour the life of the sport's greatest safety crusader Professor Sid Watkins, who died on Wednesday.

Stewart, three times world champion and a leading campaigner for improved safety in the 1970's, said motor racing had to commemorate the work of the man whose efforts revolutionised safety standards.

"He was responsible for more life saving than anyone else, certainly since my day, and he carried it off with the FIA (International Motoring Federation) to the point that the governing body then saw the necessity to have Sid permanently," Stewart said.

"There needs to be something permanent to recognise his contribution to motorsport, particularly to Formula One.

"These things filter down to other categories, but had it not been for him in F1 none of that stuff would have been developed.

"Something needs to be done to recognise Sid's long term of office and how much he did for the sport."

Less than two weeks after Frenchman Romain Grosjean's airborne multiple collision on the opening lap of the Belgian Grand Prix, Watkins' death brought home to the F1 fraternity its debt to the avuncular Liverpudlian whose humanity, generosity and expertise saved and transformed so many lives.

Watkins' death was followed by an avalanche of tributes that moved his family deeply.

A statement said: "His family would like to thank everyone for the many messages of support and the touching tributes from the world of motor racing, medicine and beyond. There will be a private family funeral in Scotland followed by a memorial service in London in the coming months, details of which will be announced shortly."

Watkins, who was 84, spent 26 years in his role as F1's chief medical officer, transforming safety standards and continuing his efforts as part of the FIA Institute even after he stood down from his full-time position at the end of 2004.

Stewart, who also praised F1's commercial ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone for appointing and supporting Watkins, added: "He wasn't doing it for personal gratification or anything else. He was a genuine man..."

Watkins was close not only to every F1 driver, but almost everyone in the paddock for three decades and was involved and present at every accident, major, minor or fatal.

"He was in all respects a very special human being," said Frank Williams, the founder of the Williams team.

"My own endorsement of Sid's abilities goes without saying. He took splendid care of me when I spent 11 weeks in his hospital post-injury. After that I emerged as a human being who, if not fully mobile, could continue with a perfectly normal and healthy lifestyle. I remain forever grateful to him." str/as

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