Plan in place after Whiting's death: FIA

Laine Clark

Shattered FIA president Jean Todt says an emergency plan is in place to ensure the Australian Grand Prix runs smoothly after Formula 1 race director Charlie Whiting's sudden death.

The emotional motorsport world body president confirmed Formula 1 deputy race director Michael Masi of Australia would step up for Whiting for this weekend's season opener in Melbourne.

Whiting, 66, died of a blood clot of the lungs in Melbourne on the eve of the 2019 season, sparking fears it may severely impact the running of the Australian Grand Prix.

Considered one of the sport's most influential figures, the beloved Whiting was an authority on rules and technical regulations and a key link between teams and the governing body.

Todt said contingencies were now in place with Masi set to juggle duties in Melbourne.

Masi will fill the race director role while also act as safety delegate and permanent starter.

He steps up after also being named race director for Formula 2 and Formula 3 this year, previously working as Supercars deputy race director until the end of last season.

"As you can imagine we have been caught by a bad surprise," Todt said.

"We have an emergency plan to make sure we will do a good job.

"We have started to see what we are going to implement for the future."

Todt said they had already made moves to ensure a smooth transition when Whiting eventually retired but sadly had to fast-track those plans.

"The future of the Formula 1 department was something we were looking at," Todt said.

"We knew Charlie wasn't going to be in the position forever. We were working and thinking about a future plan.

"Unfortunately we have to implement that earlier than what we were hoping."

After drivers led tributes on Thursday, team bosses shared their sadness over Whiting's death on Friday.

"There is a huge hole at the moment that needs to be filled," Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said: "Charlie was one of the good guys.

"I am in disbelief. What the contributed to the sport was enormous."