World champion Lewis Hamilton has led the tributes to Formula One race director Charlie Whiting following his death at the age of 66.
Just days before the start of the 2019 F1 season, Whiting's death was confirmed on Thursday after suffering a pulmonary embolism in Melbourne.
In a statement, FIA president Jean Todt described Whiting as "a central and inimitable figure in Formula One" and added that the sport had "lost a faithful friend and a charismatic ambassador".
The news broke ahead of the first drivers' media conference of the year, and those in attendance added their tributes to the former F1 mechanic – Whiting having worked for Nelson Piquet in his title seasons in 1981 and 1983.
"I've known Charlie since I started in 2007," said Hamilton. "Obviously incredibly shocked this morning to hear the sad news. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.
"What he did for the sport, his commitment, he really was a pillar, such an iconic figure within the sporting world, and he contributed so much to us. May he rest in peace."
Vettel revealed he had spent some time with Whiting on Wednesday walking the Albert Park track, and his death had come as a complete shock to the German.
The four-time champion said: "I was as shocked as we all are, still now, when I heard the news this morning, especially because I spoke to him yesterday and walked the track for the first couple of corners together with him.
"It's difficult to grasp when somebody's just not there anymore.
"I've known him for a long time and he was sort of our man, our drivers' man. Obviously there's regulations and all that and then there's us and he was the middle man. He was someone you could ask anything, at any time. He was open to everyone, any time his door was always open.
"He was a racer, he was just a very nice guy. The whole paddock, the whole circus, the whole family of Formula 1, all our thoughts are with him and especially his family in these difficult circumstances."
Very sad and shocked to hear Charlie passed away. Thank you for always looking out for us, F1 will not be the same without you. RIP Charlie pic.twitter.com/EzD6q0xmPu— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) March 14, 2019
Robert Kubica – who has returned to F1 after nine years away – added: "It's a hard moment. I saw Sebastian walking with Charlie yesterday and I thought I would not interrupt them because I was going to see him on Friday in the drivers' briefing. Unfortunately that will not be the case.
"It's very sad. He was a kind of icon of Formula One but not only Formula One. He was really the kind of person you could always trust and commit, so it's a very sad moment. My thoughts are with his family."
|SpongeBob, WWE & dancing in the mirror - The best of retiring Gronkowski´s quotes|
|Neymar in PSG contract talks, says father|
|Schalke and USA midfielder McKennie ruptures ankle ligament|
|Thailand 0 Uruguay 4: Vecino helps seal China Cup title|
|Alisson missing Brazil but feels at home at Liverpool|
|Charnley called up to England performance squad|
|Kante focused on Chelsea amid Madrid links|
|Mourinho: Zidane the right man for Real Madrid|
|Skerritt elected president of Cricket West Indies|
|Nike bow out with patchwork Manchester City ´celebration´ shirt|
|Alli believes England can be the best in the world|
|Curry: Surreal that Warriors have won 50 games again|
|LeBron won´t ´cheat the game´ even with Lakers out of playoff contention|
|Inter play better with Lautaro, says Pirlo|
|Zorc knows nothing of United interest in Sancho|
|Not in a million years! - Hornets´ Lamb in disbelief over game-winner|
|Sterling has qualities to be England captain - Southgate|
|Morocco frustrated by Messi´s friendly absence|
|The Australia ball-tampering scandal one year on: Have the batsmen filled the Smith-Warner void?|
|Giants owner: Beckham trade left grandsons crying|
|McGee explains Lakers´ mentality after playoff elimination|
|Emotional Trout addresses Angels team-mates, fans for first time since signing extension|
|Peterson retires after loss to Lipinets|
|Kyrgios continues Miami run, Djokovic battles through|
|Kyrgios produces two underarm serves in Lajovic thrashing|
|Aldridge powers Spurs over Celtics to continue hot streak|
|Leading tight end and Super Bowl star – the numbers behind Gronkowski´s greatness|
|Stephens´ struggles continue as Halep, Pliskova reach last 16|
|Duke´s Williamson discusses win over UCF, matchup with Fall|
|Low ´very satisfied´ after win over Netherlands|
|WATCH: Hornets´ Lamb hits incredible game-winner from beyond half-court|
|Belichick praises Gronkowski: He was a major reason why we won championships|
|Taumalolo out for up to 10 weeks in blow to Cowboys|
|Keselowski dominates field, secures STP 500 win|
|Duke hold off UCF in thriller|
|O´Sullivan returns to world number one after nine years|
|NFL players congratulate Gronkowski after retirement announcement|
|Koeman accepts responsibility for Germany loss|
|Djokovic overcomes Delbonis in Miami|
|Southgate: Sancho, Alli, Henderson doubts for Montenegro-England|
|Gronkowski the GOAT – Brady reacts to Patriots star´s retirement|
|Toulouse beat La Rochelle to extend lead, Racing see off Bordeaux|
|Martinez commends ´mature´ Belgium display against Cyprus|
|Casey retains Valspar Championship|
|De Ligt: Netherlands were scared to attack Germany|
|Matchwinner Magennis hails Northern Ireland´s team spirit|
|Germany still have work to do despite dramatic Dutch win, says Low|
|New England Revolution 0 FC Cincinnati 2: Saief-inspired visitors up to second|
|Steelers GM says Roethlisberger deal will ´probably´ be his last|
|Patriots star Gronkowski retires|
|Northern Ireland 2 Belarus 1: Magennis sends O´Neill´s men top of Group C|
|Netherlands 2 Germany 3: Late Schulz strike settles Group C classic|
|Cyprus 0 Belgium 2: Hazard marks 100th cap with a goal in easy win|
|Dislocated shoulder rules Richardson out of Australia-Pakistan ODI series|
|Maradona slams players and ´inept´ AFA president Tapia after Venezuela defeat|
|Deschamps not worried about latest Coman injury|
|He makes others play well – Southgate salutes Henderson ahead of 50th cap|
|Pant masterclass gets new Delhi era off to winning start|
|Finch hits another century as Australia win second ODI|
|San Marino 0 Scotland 2: McLean and Russell earn Group I spoils|
|Hazard set to win 100th Belgium cap|
|England have no weaknesses, says Montenegro coach|
|Williams hat-trick provides welcome boost for Wigan|
|Pretorius promotion pays off as Proteas stay perfect|
|Clinical Exeter beat Bath to seal play-off spot|
|Giggs hails blend of youth and experience|
|Pochettino ´nearly crying´ at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium opening|
|France winger Coman ruled out of Iceland clash|
|Ramos was kind, not dirty or rough - King|
|Wales 1 Slovakia 0: James hits winner as Giggs´ men start brightly|