Bernie Ecclestone has joined the list of names from the F1 world to pay tribute to Sid Watkins after his death on Wednesday at the age of 84.

Ecclestone was the man who offered Watkins the chance to become F1's medical delegate in 1978 - a role he would continue to perform right through to 2005 before he becoming president of the FIA Institute.

His time as F1's chief medic saw a number of changes made to improve driver safety and, in a heartfelt tribute, Ecclestone insisted that Watkins was a figure who couldn't be replaced.

"What Sid Watkins did in the way of safety in Formula One was incredible," he said. "He gave his whole life to that cause, to make sure that it could be as safe as it possibly could be. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for his caring and commitment.

"When I invited him to join Formula One as its official doctor partway through the 1978 season, we discussed many aspects of safety and medical issues. We agreed that we needed a proper hospital at the track in the form of a fully equipped medical centre to stabilise injured drivers with immediate treatment, and a helicopter to transport them subsequently to specialist facilities, and that the helicopter pad had to be as close to that trackside hospital as possible.

"Sid carried all of those things through, and many more. After the accidents to Jochen Rindt and then Ronnie Peterson, I suggested that he should have a medical intervention car and that he should take responsibility for taking drivers into medical care.

"We always talked things through and worked together, and he then took care of all the medical things which I knew nothing about.

"I am pretty sure that he is irreplaceable. You only meet somebody of his calibre once in your lifetime."


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