Reigning Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton has led the tributes to IndyCar driver Justin Wilson, who died after being struck on the head by errant debris at Pocono Raceway on Sunday.
The Sheffield-born 37-year-old was airlifted to a Pennsylvania hospital and had been in a coma since the incident but passed away on Monday evening. The seven-time IndyCar race winner is survived by his wife, Julia, and two daughters.
“I am so devastated to hear of another passing of a great man and driver,” wrote Hamilton on Instagram.
“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. We will miss him.”
Wilson’s is the seventh death during race meetings in IndyCar during the past two decades. Four years ago, Fellow Briton and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon lost his life aged 33 at the Las Vegas Indy 300 following a 15-car crash.
During that 20-year period Formula One has suffered one casualty, with the sport rocked last month when Frenchman Jules Bianchi died following a harrowing crash at the Japanese Grand Prix in October.
Wilson had experience of Formula One also, having driven for Minardi and Jaguar during the 2003 season, while his association with motorsport was deeply entrenched.
“I raced with Justin as far back as 1989 in karting and remember his smile was infectious,” tweeted McLaren’s Jenson Button. “The motorsport world comes to a standstill once again. Justin Wilson was a great person and racing driver.”
Mark Miles, boss of IndyCar parent company Hulman & Co said: “Justin’s elite ability to drive a race car was matched by his unwavering kindness, character and humility, which is what made him one of the most respected members of the paddock.”