Minardi sporting director, John Walton, passed away last night at St Thomas's Hospital in London.

Walton, who had suffered a serious heart attack in the early hours of Tuesday morning, had been apart of the Italian team since 2002, when he joined after Prost Grand Prix closed its doors.

He had also worked for Arrows, Jordan, Benetton and Toleman and was only 47 years old.

A statement released by the outfit noted:

"The Minardi F1 Team is profoundly saddened to report that its sporting director, John Walton, passed away peacefully at 23:18 last night at St Thomas's Hospital, in London, with his family at his bedside."

Speaking after practice yesterday, team boss, Paul Stoddart commented: "As many people are aware, Minardi has had a tough week with the news that its much-loved sporting director, John Walton, suffered a serious heart attack in the early hours of last Tuesday morning.

"It goes without saying that all the team's thoughts throughout this weekend are with John's family and friends. The team has pulled together and is determined to put up a strong showing at Silverstone, and today's efforts by all three drivers showed we are doing exactly that."

Neither Minardi cars ventured out in the first free practice session this morning.