Some 200 people attended a memorial service for “the Prof”, “Sid”, Professor Eric Sidney Watkins OBE FRCS, in London on Friday morning, roughly equally divided between F1 and medical people. A number could not make it because of strong snowfall which made travel difficult in some outer regions.
If the medical community knew all about Sid’s work in motor racing, the F1 people learned much more about his outstanding medical career as a researcher and pioneer in new areas of his delicate speciality, and in other aspects of surgery. Another leading neurosurgeon, Mr Peter J Hamlyn, who trained under Sid at the Royal London Hospital, told of Watkins’s ground-breaking research into the previously inaccesible mid-brain area, which with the surgical techniques he developed enabled otherwise incurable conditions to be successfully treated. Turning to his F1 work, Hamlyn described the wider impact. When in 2005 the London Olympic bid was presented to the IOC, one of the first questions was : “Will the medical care for the athletes be up to Formula 1 Standards ?”
Hamlyn said Sid was a major impetus in creating the new discrete disipline of sports medicine.
In rounding-up Sid’s career, Hamlyn said that his achievements could never be matched by his successors. He looked to the heavens and said with a grin: “Only one word sums him up: Bastard!” The church exploded in laughter.
Other tributes were paid by Dr Sandy Saunders, who trained with Sid in Liverpool and became a life-long friend, and for the racing community, by Sir Jackie Stewart and Jeffrey Rose, past president of the RAC and member of the FIA Board, and a fishing companion of Sid’s. There was much mention of Sid’s love of fine whisky.
Among those present from the F1 world were FIA President Jean Todt, two World Champions sitting side by side, Damon Hill and Jody Scheckter, Martin Brundle, Patrick Head, and Herbie Blash of F1 race control, plus many more more anonymous members of the F1 fraternity. Two representatives came from the Sakhir ciruit in Bahrain especially for the event.
No current Formula 1 drivers were present.