Herbie Blash is reckoned to be the man with the most Grand Prix attendances to his name. No-one really knows because it relies on the honesty of the individual (and his/her memory) but Herbie has definitely done at least 750, dating back to 1965 when he first popped up working as a mechanic for privateer Lotus entrant Rob Walker. Blash is now 67, but he got his first job at 17 when he started working as a mechanic with the RRC Walking Racing Team. In 1968 – at the age of 20 – Herbie joined Team Lotus and became Graham Hill’s mechanic. The following year he looked after Jochen Rindt. It was during this period that he got to know Rindt’s manager Bernie Ecclestone. After Rindt’s death in 1970 Herbie took on more of a management role at Lotus until he led a walk-out of Lotus staff in 1971 and fell out with team boss Colin Chapman.
Blash was then briefly employed by Frank Williams but when Ecclestone bought Brabham at the end of 1971 he hired Herbie to run his F2 programme. By 1973 Blash was the Brabham F1 team manager, working with Ecclestone and designer Gordon Murray for the next 15 years, during which time Brabham scored 22 victories and Nelson Piquet won the 1981 and 1983 Drivers’ World Championships.
The alliance began to break up in the mid 1980s when Ecclestone became increasingly involved in running the sport and Murray left after the disastrous BT55 “skateboard” design of 1986. At the end of 1987 BMW pulled out of F1 and Ecclestone decided the team should have a sabbatical form F1 and build a high-performance Procar for Alfa Romeo. Brabham was then sold to Swiss financier Joachim Luhti and Blash left to work run Ecclestone’s FOCA Television company for a season. A change of management at Brabham saw him return briefly as Sporting Director and he played an important role in securing the Brabham-Yamaha alliance for 1991. At the end of that year, however, the famous factory at Chessington was closed. Blash was offered a job with Yamaha and joined the Japanese company as its sporting director, overseeing its alliance with Jordan and later Tyrrell. At the same time he was running Yamaha subsidiary Activa, overseeing research and development and fabrication work for the motor racing industry – while also acting as the FIA’s Deputy Race Director at all Grands Prix from 1996 onwards.
The role of F1 Deputy Race Director will be taken on by Laurent Mekies who joined the FIA as Safety Director in 2014. Mekies joined the FIA from Scuderia Toro Rosso, where he worked as an engineer between 2002 and 2014. Mekies will continue to hold the post of Safety Director.
Charlie Whiting and Blash go back into the mists of time, having first worked together in the 1970s at Brabham, but they have worked together at the FIA for almost 20 years.
“I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to Herbie for his years of tireless work for our sport,” Whiting said. “It has been a huge pleasure to be alongside him for almost two decades. Of course Herbie will be hard to replace but, with Laurent’s extensive experience in F1, I’m sure he will be a worthy replacement.”