Formula One race director Charlie Whiting, a popular and key figure in the sport, has died three days before the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) said in a statement on Thursday.
"He has been a great race director, a central and inimitable figure in Formula One who embodied the ethics and spirit of this fantastic sport.
Whiting, who worked for Brabham with the sport's former commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone in the 1980s, joined the FIA in 1988.
The news was met with shock in the Formula One paddock where Whiting was close to drivers, with whom he conducted pre-race briefings, and teams who sought technical guidance and clarifications.
"Charlie will be remembered as one of the giants of our sport, as well as a great colleague.