A 50-year veteran of Formula One, Michael ‘Herbie’ Blash (pictured on the right in the above image) began his Grand Prix career in 1965 working with privateer Lotus entrant Rob Walker. In 1968 he was employed by Lotus where he became race engineer to Jochen Rindt. In 1972 he moved to the Brabham where he became team manager, a post he would hold until 1988. Following a period as Sporting Director with Brabham in the early ‘90s he then moved to Yamaha as Sporting Director. In 1996 he became the FIA Deputy Race Director in Formula One, a role he has fulfilled without fail ever since.
The role of F1 Deputy Race Director will be taken on by Laurent Mekies who joined the FIA as Safety Director in 2014. A graduate engineer of the ESTACA School in France, Laurent Mekies began his Formula One career as a race engineer with the Arrows F1 team in 2001 before moving to Minardi the following year. After the team’s takeover and renaming as Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2006, Mekies was appointed Chief Engineer. In 2012 he took on a new role as Head of Vehicle Performance at the Faenza team. Mekies will continue to hold the post of Safety Director but will now also work alongside FIA Formula One Race Director Charlie Whiting at all Formula One races.
FIA President Jean Todt said: “I would personally like to thank Herbie for all of his hard work for the FIA over the past 21 years, and especially for his contribution in maintaining Formula One’s place at the pinnacle of motor sport. Along with Charlie, Herbie has been instrumental in the seamless running of grand prix races for over two decades, and we are pleased that he will continue to work with the FIA in future.
“Replacing someone with Herbie’s immense experience was never going to be easy. However, we are fortunate to be able to appoint Laurent Mekies to this position. Laurent brings a wealth of Formula One experience, and has been responsible for driving the FIA’s safety agenda since joining us. Combining his strong Formula One history and work as the FIA’s Safety Director, I am confident that he will ensure that the FIA’s flagship single-seater championship continues to set the benchmark for race management and safety – a status that his predecessor, Herbie, can take great pride in helping to nurture.”
Whiting said: “I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to Herbie for his years of tireless work for our sport. 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, he will also be able to bring a new dimension of experience to our team of F1 officials.”
Herbie Blash will formally stand down from his position at the end of this season.