For the first time this year, Crash.net brings you its daily round-up of all the news, updates and added tidbits of information from the paddock after Thursday’s media briefings ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.

– A pall hung over the paddock on Thursday when the news broke that race director Charlie Whiting had died suddenly earlier in the morning of a pulmonary embolism.

– FIA president Jean Todt led the tributes, calling Whiting “a central and inimitable figure” and “a faithful friend and charismatic ambassador”, while F1 motorsport director Ross Brawn said, “it is a great loss not only for me personally but also the entire Formula 1 family, the FIA and motorsport as a whole”.

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– A recurring theme among tributes was Whiting’s accessibility to all comers. “His door was always open and he was just a very nice guy,” noted Sebastian Vettel. “We really pressed him and pushed him and made him work, but he was always really receptive,” Daniel Ricciardo added.

Sergio Perez perhaps captured his reputation best when he said: “It’s very rare in this sport to meet such a peaceful, lovely guy. I have nothing bad to say about him. Nothing. It’s only good things. Someone like him, it’s going to be impossible to find a replacement.”

– Gunther Steiner admitted Haas might not have succeeded in Formula 1 without Whiting’s help. “He was a friend of Haas,” Steiner said. “I would say without the help of Charlie in the beginning, five years ago, advising us how to do things best, we wouldn’t be here, so I’ve got a lot of respect for what he did.”

– Whiting will be replaced by deputy race director Michael Masi. The Australian, who was a deputy race director for Australia’s Supercars series in 2018 alongside several appearances a Whiting’s deputy at F1 grands prix, will also fill the position of race director for Formula 2 and Formula 3 this season.

– Elsewhere in the paddock, McLaren confirmed British American Tobacco’s ‘A Better Tomorrow’ branding would not appear on its cars at the Australian Grand Prix, following Ferrari dropping Phillip Morris International’s ‘Mission Winnow’ logo from its cars and team kit for this round only. Both had come under investigation by Australian and Victorian authorities for possible breaches of the country’s strict anti-tobacco advertising laws. Both brands are set to reappear at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

– Despite being rocketed to minor stardom in Netflix’s Drive to Survive series, Gunther Steiner insists that he hasn’t watched the series himself and that he doesn’t understand his newfound popularity. “Nobody believes me!” he said. “Some people like to watch themselves; I don’t.” He added that his wife had watched it was “not being complimentary about the words I use!” and that he hoped he was at least popular for the “the right reasons”.

– Response to the awarding of a point for the fastest lap has been indifferent at best. Most drivers are satisfied to let it play out for a few rounds before coming to a judgement, though most remarked that it was unlikely to make much difference to the overall championship picture — this is particularly given the bottom ten places, most often occupied by drivers for whom even one point could be valuable in terms of table position, are not eligible to score.

– Despite changing teams and the rumours that came with it, Daniel Ricciardo walked into the FIA press conference chatting happily with former teammate Max Verstappen about his day driving a Supercar ahead of the race. Max had been a passenger in one of the Australian touring cars on a hot lap.

– Ricciardo also led an impromptu round of applause in the press conference for Robert Kubica’s almost unbelievable return to Formula 1 after sustaining life-changing injuries in a rally crash in February 2011.

– As one of four rookies making their full-time debut in 2019, Lando Norris said the presence of his fellow freshmen might make his first race a little bit easier given “not everyone will be looking at me”. He added that there’s still plenty of pressure being a Formula 1 driver, especially for McLaren.

- The FIA confirmed on Wednesday that the DRS zones would remain unchanged from 2018. Three zones will be used once again: the start/finish straight; Turn 2 to Turn 3; and from Turn 12 to Turn 13.

- The pre-race notes confirmed that kerbs have been replaced at apexes of Turn 4, Turn 11 and Turn 12, as well as at the exit of Turn 4.

- Sergio Perez said the outlook for the Mexican Grand Prix is now “looking a bit more promising”, saying that talks are ongoing and the possibility of a new deal is “not really shut down”. Promoters are working to secure the future of the race after the government announced it would be pulling its financial backing.

Additional reporting by Luke Smith.

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