Bernie Ecclestone brought Professor Sid Watkins to Formula One in the late 1970s as the sport’s increasing public profile was dogged by a series of terrible fatal accidents. Watkins worked tirelessly to improve medical facilities at race weekends, insisting on available ambulance helicopters and purpose-built first aid areas at circuits.
Throughout the weekends Watkins manned the safety car, on standby during the practice sessions and following the field on the first lap to respond immediately to first-lap accidents.
Thanks to Watkins, the frequency of fatal accidents to drivers since 1979 has been greatly reduced, the last two coming in 1994 when Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna were killed in San Marino. Mika Hakkinen came perilously close to death at Adelaide in 1995, but was saved by Watkins’ rapid intervention.