LONDON (Reuters) - The Formula One community mourned another death in the family on Tuesday after British racer Justin Wilson, a friend to many in the grand prix paddock, succumbed to head injuries suffered in a U.S. IndyCar race.
The 37-year-old, who raced in Formula One for Minardi and Jaguar in 2003, was hit by debris after crashing in the closing laps at Pocono Raceway oval in Pennsylvania.
“I woke up this morning feeling positive in my heart until I read the news,” said compatriot and double world champion Lewis Hamilton on Instagram. “I am so devastated to hear of another passing of a great man and driver.
“I’d met Justin Wilson a few times growing up and he was the ultimate gentleman. Whilst I only knew him a little, I will miss him.”
Briton Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion who attended the funeral of French F1 driver Jules Bianchi a month ago and was a friend of double Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon who died in 2011, expressed his shock on Twitter.
“The motorsport world comes to a standstill once again,” said the McLaren driver. “I raced with Justin as far back as 1989 in karting and remember his smile was infectious, such a lovely guy.”
The sentiment was echoed by Lotus driver Romain Grosjean, a pallbearer at Bianchi’s funeral.
“So sad to hear Justin Wilson passed away. What dreadful news and what a dramatic year for racing. Losing too many champions,” he said.
Button’s double world champion team mate Fernando Alonso, who like Wilson started his F1 career at Minardi, said the news was “difficult to accept”.
Australian Mark Webber, Wilson’s team mate at Jaguar, said: “Last night a very good man left us. Mate. So sorry. RIP Justin. My thoughts are with your loved ones.”
Red Bull principal Christian Horner, whose team was previously Jaguar, spoke of the sadness of all at the Milton Keynes factory.
“Justin left his mark on many who worked with him during the Jaguar days, he is remembered fondly for the kind and humble person he was,” said Horner.
“Having known Justin since his karting days on the British circuits it was always obvious to me he was destined for great things in motorsport.
“His progress through the lower formulas was impressive and he absolutely flourished in F3000,” added Horner.
“Justin will be remembered not only as a talented driver but also as quite simply one of the nicest blokes in motorsport.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Tony Jimenez