Bernie Ecclestone has paid tribute to Professor Sid Watkins, Formula One's resident doctor and safety delegate for 26 years who died at the age of 84 on Wednesday.

16052 - Ecclestone pays tribute to Watkins

Ecclestone appointed Watkins to make the sport safer in 1978 and the changes he put in place continue to save the lives of drivers in the sport. In a statement on the official Formula One website, Ecclestone said Watkins was irreplaceable in his field.

"What Sid Watkins did in the way of safety in Formula One was incredible. 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."