Here in Albert Park, traditionally a setting of sunshine and optimism for the start of the Formula One season, the sport was united on Thursday in shock at the death of long-serving race director Charlie Whiting.
The F1 world was rocked on Thursday morning as it awoke to the announcement that race director Whiting had died from a pulmonary embolism in the southern Australian city where he was due to work this weekend.
Not only did Whiting serve the FIA in his race director position throughout Eccelstone's tenure as owner of F1, but the two also crossed paths much earlier with Whiting working as a mechanic at Ecclestone's Brabham team in the late 1970s and 80s.
"It is with enormous sadness that I learned of Charlie's passing".
As FIA director, he was a driving force in pushing improved safety and played a key role in the introduction of the halo, the ring-like barrier fitted over the drivers' heads to protect them from heavy impacts and missiles.
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In a statement, Red Bull Racing said that "Formula One has lost one of its most loyal and hard-working ambassadors, and the paddock will be a poorer place without him. All our thoughts go out to his family".
Sebastian Vettel recalled that he had spoken with him on Wednesday and that it was extremely hard to believe what has happened: "I walked the track for the first couple of corners with him". "We worked as mechanics together, became friends and spent so much time together at race tracks across the world". "Difficult to grasp when somebody is just not there anymore". "When I left, I said "see you in Australia for another season of racing".
As race director, Whiting was also in charge of dishing out penalties and punishments when a driver overstepped the mark - and one driver who has found himself on the receiving end of this a few too many times is Max Verstappen. Obviously there are regulations and all that, and then there is us, and he was the middle man.
"He was a man with great integrity who performed a hard role in a balanced way", he said.
"My condolences to his family, I really enjoyed our talks over the years, Charlie, you will be missed by us all". "All my thoughts, those of the FIA and entire motor sport community go out to his family, friends, and all Formula 1 lovers".
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