Formula 1 Race Director and Safety Delegate Charlie Whiting was the man who on Saturday advised stewards at the Rolex Australian Grand Prix to admit they were beaten by the rain and to reschedule the completion of qualifying for Sunday morning, six hours ahead of the race.
Whiting said he took the decision after consultation with his FIA colleagues and was at no time put under any pressure to do so from teams or drivers. He said it was a simple, pragmatic decision taken without consideration for any commercial considerations.
“I think everybody was relieved,” he said. “Nobody wanted it – nobody wanted us to go on with qualifying in those conditions. We were right on the edge in Q1.”
The stewards decided to abandon qualifying after the first mini-session and to reschedule the Q2 and Q3 sessions to start at 1100 on Sunday. The race is due to start at 1700.
“We just wanted to put everyone out of their misery, so to speak,” Whiting said after a succession of 10-minute and 20-minute delays had made the final postponement inevitable following cold winds and heavy rain late in the afternoon.
"The stewards are the only people who can make any change to the timetable so we suggested to them that we postponed until tomorrow morning,” he said on Saturday evening.
“It was the only sensible thing to do and it put a lot of people out of their misery, so to speak, in very difficult conditions. And with such a late start time for the race, there is plenty of scope here for that to happen."
Whiting, once the chief mechanic for the Brabham team when it was owned by Formula One’s commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone, has been Race Director of every race held at Albert Park.
As the Safety Delegate, he has to make sure that every circuit is safe to host a Grand Prix and, as Race Director, he has to make sure every race runs smoothly. He also runs the FIA technical department, chairs technical meetings and writes the sport’s rules – which he is responsible for enforcing.
“I liken myself to a policeman,” he said recently. “I see the stewards as the judges. It is my job to find the potential culprits and the stewards then decide if they are guilty.”
In the same way, he bows to the stewards’ control of race meeting schedules, as he did on Saturday when Melbourne lived up to its famous reputation of delivering ‘four seasons in one day’.