Formula 1

Remembering Sir Frank Williams

Remembering Sir Frank Williams
Long before it became the fashion – today, you are as likely to be run over by a phalanx of joggers as a race car at the circuit on an F1 weekend – Frank Williams was a fitness fanatic who enjoyed running round the race tracks of the world.
When that accident in 1986, at the age of 43, left him quadriplegic, there was no hint of self-pity, no suggestion of special treatment when his wheelchair was pushed into the paddock the following year.
With his death on 28 November 2021, the era of team bosses who had their name above the door of the F1 garage has gone (allowing a bit of poetic license as the Williams family relinquished control of the team last year.) One of the legends of the sport, his team had been a dominant force in Formula 1 across four decades, winning 9 Constructors’ and 7 Drivers’ championships and 114 Grands Prix.
Pastor Maldonado, Frank Williams and the rest of the Williams F1 Team celebrating the win at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix. Image courtesy hoch-zwei.
As a penniless racing enthusiast he fell in with a band of like-minded but wealthier brigands who would race all over Europe. Williams was no great shakes as a driver, but he set the standard when it came to wheeling and dealing and eventually, while famously running his business from a telephone box, he entered a Brabham in Formula 1, finishing second in the 1969 Monaco Grand Prix with Piers Courage at the wheel. There were many setbacks along the way, but gradually, the team that became Williams Grand Prix Engineering began to make a name for itself, especially once Williams had cemented a partnership with talented designer Patrick Head.
Patrick Head, Frank Williams, Carlos Reutemann and Alan Jones in Williams-Ford FW07B at 1980 British Grand Prix. Image courtesy hoch-zwei
Fast forward to 1980 and with support from Saudi Arabia’s airline – yes, even here Sir Frank was ahead of the pack when it came to tapping into the wealth of the Middle East - Australia’s Alan Jones delivered the team’s first world championship crown, followed up two years later by another courtesy of Keke Rosberg. There were some great cars, a few penned by Adrian Newey and Williams masterminded deals with Honda, BMW and most successfully, Renault to power them. More titles, lots more, would come courtesy of Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve, the latter securing the team’s last crown in 1997.
Dr. Dieter Zetsche and Sir Frank Williams at the 2015 Monaco Grand Prix. Image courtesy hoch-zwei.
As Sir Frank’s and the team’s health declined, eventually the only solution was to sell up last year. The Williams name lives on, hopefully in good hands, but whether it wins again or not, Sir Frank Williams achievements and legacy remains untarnished.
A year later, Senna would be back in his home town in his first appearance with his new team, Williams. It ended in retirement and less than two months later, he was no more, in one of the most unfortunate circumstances.

The crowd and the atmosphere at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace would never be quite the same.

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