Watkins Lecture

Photograph by Dennis Goodwin Photography

Named after the late, great Professor Sid Watkins, the Fund's annual Watkins Lecture on motorsport safety issues is usually held in January to coincide with the Autosport International Show.

In 2017 the Watkins Lecture was be given by Laurent Mekies, FIA safety chief. Laurent Mekies manages the FIA's Safety Department and works on defining a global strategy for safety in motor sport. He is also General Manager for Research at the Global Institute for Motor Sport Safety, the Swiss-based corporation that undertakes research to improve motor sport safety worldwide at all levels. Laurent Mekies was born in Tours, the French town 100km south of Le Mans, in 1977. He studied at the École Supérieure des Techniques Aéronautiques et de Construction Automobile (ESTACA) in Paris, spending his final year at Loughborough University and graduating with a Masters degree in Automotive Engineering.

Laurent began his career in motorsport with the Asiatech Formula 3 team before joining the Arrows Formula 1 team in 2001. The following year, he joined the Faenza-based Minardi team as a race engineer, taking on the role of chief engineer in 2006 after Scuderia Toro Rosso acquired Minardi. Laurent became responsible for all track operations, from the construction of the car at the factory to the race team at the track, in addition to becoming responsible for the safety of on-track operations.

At the end of 2012, Laurent was given a much broader role with the team as Head of Vehicle Performance, managing six departments working on core car performance. Two years later, he left Scuderia Toro Rosso to join the FIA as Safety Director.

In 2016 he took over as F1 Deputy Race Director from Herbie Blash. Following Laurent Mekies's appointment, FIA President Jean Todt said: "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."

Lecturers to date:

2017 Laurent Mekies, FIA Safety Director
2016 Jean Todt with James Allen
2015 Allan McNish with James Allen
2014 Charlie Whiting with Stuart Codling
2013 Andy Mellor, Technical Director - FIA Institute for Motor Sport Safety and Sustainability

2012 Jonathan Neale Managing Director of McLaren Racing with Maurice Hamilton
2011 Christian Horner and Adrian Newey with Martin Brundle
2010 Adrian Newey with Maurice Hamilton
2009 Ron Dennis CBE with Murray Walker OBE
2008 Malcolm Wilson with Graham Robson
2007 Professor Sid Watkins
2006 Bernie Ecclestone
2005 Ross Brawn
2004 Martin Brundle
2003 Dr Terry R. Trammell
2002 David Richards
2001 Niki Lauda
2000 Max Mosley
1999 Sir Jackie Stewart
1998 Professor Sid Watkins


Allan McNish and James Allen

2015 Wakins Lecture - Allan McNish and James Allen at the 2015 Watkins Lecture