The motorsport world has come together to mourn the death of Formula 1 team founder and ex-boss Sir Frank Williams, aged 79.
In a statement issued on behalf of the Williams family, it confirmed the death of Sir Frank yesterday morning, who ‘after being admitted to hospital on Friday, passed away peacefully surrounded by his family’.
The statement continued: “Today we pay tribute to our much loved and inspirational figurehead. Frank will be sorely missed. We request that all friends and colleagues respect the Williams family’s wishes for privacy at this time.”
He founded his first team, Frank Williams Racing Cars, in 1966, competing in both Formula 2 and Formula 3. The breakthrough came in 1969 when Williams started competing in Formula 1. After disappointing results, the team was bought by Canadian tycoon Walter Wolf in 1976, with Sir Frank being removed as team manager.
But he was a fighter, and in 1977 he formed Williams Grand Prix Engineering, with results soon improving. In 1980 came the team’s first overall title win with Alan Jones at the wheel. In total the team won seven drivers’ championships, all with different drivers at the helm, including Nigel Mansell in 1992 and Damon Hill in 1996.
Sir Frank was seriously injured in a car crash in 1986, which resulted in a spinal chord injury that left him unable to walk. Despite that, Williams remained at the helm of the team, and only began to reduce his workload in 2012 – after managing the squad for 43 years – when he stepped down from the board of the team. His daughter Clare Williams continued until September 2020, departing shortly after the acquisition by Dorilton Capital.
The motorsport world has come together to mark his life. Lewis Hamilton said: “Sir Frank Williams was one of the kindest people I had the pleasure of meeting in this sport. What he achieved is something truly special. Until his last days I know he remained a racer and a fighter at heart. His legacy will live on forever.”
George Russell, a current F1 driver for Williams, also paid his respects: “Sir Frank was such a genuinely wonderful human being and I’ll always remember the laughs we shared. He was more than a boss, he was a mentor and a friend to everybody who joined the Williams Racing family and so many others.
“It has been a genuine honour racing for him and being a small part of the incredible legacy he leaves behind, a legacy that will forever live on in the heart and soul of this team. Rest in peace, Sir Frank. Thank you for everything.”
The family of Sir Frank added that anyone wishing to pay tribute make a donation in place of gifts to the Spinal Injuries Association, and that they welcome flowers to be placed at the entrance of the Williams team’s headquarters in Grove, Oxfordshire.