The Formula One paddock has been rocked by the death of popular and ever-present superfan Charaf-Eddin Ait-Tales.
The partially-blind Frenchman, who was a fixture on the F1 circuit for more than a decade and loved by drivers for his positive attitude, lost his battle with cancer last weekend.
Australian star Daniel Ricciardo was among a host of big names to pay tribute, tweeting: “Charaf sadly passed on the weekend. Loved when he was at the track, laughing and joking about something, mainly my terrible French. I’ll remember him for just getting on with it with a smile regardless of the cards he was dealt through his life. Thank you for being a bright light.”
“I’m so sorry to hear this!” added Red Bull’s Sergio Perez. “My good friend RIP, F1 community will always miss you and will never forget you. My thoughts with your family, I’ll keep our good times with myself forever.
F1 presenter Will Buxton was shattered. “I’m utterly cut up and so desperately sad to hear the news of the passing of our dear sweet, passionate, wonderful friend Charaf,” he tweeted. “One of life’s truly genuine people and the most beautiful soul. Everyone loved him. I’ll miss him awfully.”
Former drivers Romain Grosjean and Nico Rosberg also offered their condolences.
“Very sad news. Charaf was a true F1 lover with a unique feeling for it. Always smiling and friendly. The paddock will miss him,” Grosjean wrote.
Rosberg: “I’m so sorry to read this. My deepest condolences to the entire family. Charaf was such a special person always putting a smile on everyone’s face. We will miss you – Rest in Peace my friend!”
Charaf was a diehard Michael Schumacher who started losing his sight when the seven-time world champion broke his leg in a crash at Silverstone in 1999.
A physio who used to close his business on Thursdays on Grand Prix weekends so he could follow every moment of a race, Charaf took inspiration from the German superstar’s successful recovery.
His death was announced by his brother on Thursday. “It’s with my deepest sorrow that I have to inform you of the death of my beloved brother Charaf,” a statement read.
“As you may know, he was fighting against a cancer. He passed away surrounded by loved ones. Thank you to all ppl who showed support and love to him during his last fight.”