LONDON – Sir Frank Williams, founder and former principal of the Williams racing team, has passed away. He was 79 years old.
Williams has taken his motorsport team from an empty warehouse to the top of Formula 1, tracking 114 victories, a total of 16 world championships by riders and builders, and becoming one longest team boss in the sport’s history.
“After being hospitalized on Friday, Sir Frank passed away peacefully this morning surrounded by his family,” Williams Racing said in a statement Sunday.
Williams’ driver, George Russell, remembered Williams as a “really great human being.”
Williams’ life was made more extraordinary by the horrific car crash he suffered in France that left him so badly injured that doctors considered shutting down his life support.
But his wife Virginia was ordered to keep her husband alive and his sheer determination and courage – traits that have personified his career – helped him continue with his love. love of his life, despite being in a wheelchair.
He will continue to serve as Williams team principal for another 34 years before F1The greatest family football team was sold to an American investment group in August.
Francis Owen Garbett Williams, born in South Shields on April 16, 1942, is an RAF officer and principal. He was educated at St Joseph’s College, a private boarding school in Dumfries, where he became obsessed with cars after a road trip. Jaguar XK150.
A daytime traveling salesman, Williams fulfilled his racing ambitions over the weekend and at the age of 24 he founded his own racing team, Frank Williams Racing Cars.
Four years later, they competed in Formula 2, and with companion and best friend Piers Courage behind the wheel, Williams graduated from F1 in 1969 in a used Brabham.
But tragedy struck the Dutch 1970 grand opening.
Courage ran off the track, one of his front wheels hit his helmet, and his car caught fire. Courage’s grizzly death in a car named after him left Williams devastated. Bankrupt and heavily in debt, he reluctantly sold his 60% stake to Walter Wolf in 1975.
But Williams was not allowed to be a back-seat driver and because of his desire for independence, he severed ties with the Canadian businessman.
He opened a shop at an old carpet warehouse in Didcot, Oxfordshire and signed a promising young engineer named Patrick Head. The double action will continue to make great prix history.
With sponsorship from Saudi Arabia and the hiring of Australian driver Alan Jones, Williams Grand Prix Engineering has become a force.
At the 1979 British Grand Prix, Jones registered Williams’ first pole position before teammate Clay Regazzoni took the team’s first win a day later.
In 1980, Jones gave Williams their first title. The team also won back-to-back constructors’ championships, while Keke Rosberg was crowned drivers’ champion in 1982. But, in 1986, Williams’ life would change forever.
After testing at the Paul Ricard track in March, Williams set off for the 98-mile trip to Nice Airport on a chartered ride Ford Sierra. While traveling on windy roads at high speed, Williams lost control and the car hit the roof after falling 2.5 meters into a field.
Williams’ passenger, the team’s marketing manager Peter Windsor, escaped with minor injuries. But Williams suffered a spinal fracture that left him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Williams later said: “I was late for a flight that I didn’t need to be late because I had mixed time in France with UK time. “The road was bumpy, the rental car wasn’t the best in the world, and all of a sudden I was upside down and broke my neck.
“It is unfair to my family, especially my wife, because of how my situation has changed. Looking back, it was a careless and selfish thing. Life goes on, and I can still go on, but in the truest sense of the word it’s stubbornness. ”
Despite life-changing injuries, Williams was back leading his team within nine months. Over the next 11 years, that was followed by five drivers’ championships – including championships for Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill – as well as seven assists.
But it will be more heartbreaking for Williams when Ayrton Senna is killed in just his third race for the British team at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
Williams was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1999 but his team was never able to replicate the heyday of the 1980s and 1990s. He stepped back in 2013, the year his wife died, to Claire’s daughter takes over the day-to-day running of the team.
Williams battled pneumonia in 2016, but he has been an occasional fixture on the paddock for a number of years.
And, at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, a historic sporting chapter came to an end as the Williams family contested for 739th and finished the race after selling the prize to Dorilton Capital.
Williams is survived by her three children, sons Jonathan and Jamie and Claire, and grandchildren Ralph and Nathaniel.