Sir Frank Williams CBE 1942 – 2021
The founder and former team principal of Williams, Sir Frank Williams CBE, has died at the age of seventy-nine. Sir Frank was one of the sports longest-serving and most successful team principals having founded the Williams team predecessor Frank Williams Racing in 1969, before stepping down in August 2020.
During his time as a team owner and principal alongside Sir Patrick Head created the most successful teams in the sport’s history, winning nine constructors’ championships and seven drivers’ titles, and dominated much of the 1980s and 1990s. Sir Frank suffered a spinal injury in 1986 which left him paralysed.
His first entry in 1969 was awfully uncompetitive and terribly financially insecure. At one point operating from a phone box after losing his premises. The breakthrough was teaming up with engineer and later business partner Sir Patrick Head.
Williams’s career was set with tragedies, 1970 saw Piers Courage killed at Zandvoort. It also led to the collapse of his original team which he sold to Walter Wolff in 1975. He then found the Williams team with Sir Patrick Head and backing from the Bin Laden’s, saw the family become a force in F1.
In 1979 at Silverstone Alan Jones took the teams ‘ first pole position before team-mate Clay Regazzoni took the team’s maiden win a day later. In 1980, Jones delivered Williams their first title. The team also won back-to-back constructors’ championships, while Keke Rosberg was crowned drivers’ champion in 1982.
Alan Jones and Carlos Reutemann saw Frank achieve the dream of winning the teams first drivers and constructors. Keke Rosberg followed that with the 1982 championship.
His accident in 1986, made him an icon beyond motorsport because of his determination to compete at the highest level despite a severe disability. Williams was given ten years to live after breaking his neck, but his recovery was yet a sign of who he was.
But one of his deepest regrets was the death of Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994, they had been friends since Frank gave him his first test in 1983, though he wouldn’t sign for the team.
Senna’s death led to a lengthy legal process in Italy in which Williams, Head and Newey all faced manslaughter charges, but were ultimately acquitted.
Williams was knighted in 1999, but the beginning of the new century saw Williams struggle to replicate the success of the 1980s and 1990s. Sir Frank stepped back in 2013 allowing Claire to assume the day-to-day running of the team.
His final years in charge saw it record its worst results following the 2017 regulation changes, this lead to financial difficulties compounded by the pandemic last September the team was sold to Dorilton.
Sir Frank had three children Jonathan and Jamie and daughter Claire, and grandchildren Ralph and Nathaniel.
Tributes for Sir Frank pour in on social media
Following the death of Sir Frank Williams on Sunday, many tributes have been pouring in from drivers, teams, fans and others.
Sir Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, “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.”
Pierre Gasly, Alpha Tauri “Today is another day showing us how unpredictable life can be, and how vulnerable we are as human. Life isn’t always logical & fair so cherish the people you love and care about while you can cause no one knows how long this journey on Earth will last for each of us.”
Valtteri Bottas, former Williams’s driver, “Sad news today. Thank you for everything Frank. You will be missed. Rest in peace 🙏”
George Russell, Williams, “Today, we say goodbye to the man who defined our team. 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.”
Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, “Rest In Peace Sir Frank. You will be missed. Thoughts and prayers with all the Williams family.”
Nico Hulkenberg “Rest in Peace, Sir Frank Williams! His legacy will be forever part of F1 and I will never forget the moment in 2009 when this Man opened the door to F1 for me.”
Bernie Ecclestone, former F1 CEO & Brabham team principal “Frank was one of the old-timers who went back an awful long way. One wonders if people like Frank had not been around in the early days whether Formula 1 would have survived today. He was one of the people that built Formula 1.
Zak Brown, CEO McLaren Racing, “We have lost a true hero of our sport and an inspiration for so many beyond it. Sir Frank not only created a special F1 legacy but showed the power of human determination to overcome huge adversity. Thoughts with his family and the Williams team.”
Billy Monger, who lost his legs in 2017 & Channel 4 commentator, “A kind, funny and determined man that created a huge legacy in our sport. A real sad day for us all, thanks for making me feel truly welcome in the @F1 paddock from day one! My thoughts are with the Williams family & team. R.I.P Sir Frank.”
Head’s tribute to Williams
Sir Patrick Head who was a long-term partner and enjoyed success with Sir Frank has been paying his own tribute. Head writing for Motorsport.com at length explained how he met Williams and their four decades partnership was one of the most successful partnerships in F1 history.
Head explained how he first met Williams in late 1975 after a degree in engineering at University College, London, and after involvement with a project developing Super Vee Volkswagen engines and then designing the Scott F2 car. He then worked for Ron Taurance part-time, before being asked to meet Williams.
“new nothing of Formula 1, or of Frank Williams, but was completely broke and was happy to take his offer to join the long line of designers he had had working for him. One week after I started, the deal with Walter Wolf was done and with that came Harvey Postlethwaite and the Hesketh cars.”
“I was offered £500 to leave or to stay and work under Harvey. This was a great learning year for me, and I had the opportunity to observe without being in the direct firing line.”
“At the beginning of 1977, Frank departed, I was with Jody Scheckter and a small test team at Kyalami in South Africa and received a call from Frank saying that he was starting again, and would I join him? It was a big step for me, but Frank’s total enthusiasm and commitment was infectious, and I decided to depart with him. This was the start of Williams Grand Prix Engineering in March 1977.”
He explained in their partnership Williams operated very much on the business and operational side, and myself on the design and manufacturing side, and we generally did not interfere in each other’s ‘patch’.
Head says that in the early years the team had some financial challenges and that required hiding from the bank manager. But Williams was always positive, always convinced that ‘everything will work out, chap’, that it was hard not to be swept along with his positive attitude.
“Over the years we had few reasons to argue, but I can truthfully say that I never had any reason to doubt his commitment to supporting myself, whatever engineering challenges arose, even sometimes when we took a little time to correct them.”
Head said that Frank’s commitment and enthusiasm towards success on the track was infectious , not only to me but to all others who worked at Williams
Williams triumphs and tragedy
The story of Williams is one of triumph and tragedy
Born during the war, Frank became hooked on racing at an early age but he soon found he wasn’t a great driver. He then found himself becoming a car dealer then a racing team in Formula Two before the pre-curser to the team entered F1 in 1969, buying a chassis from Bernie Ecclestone’s Brabham.
In their second Grand Prix, the team finished on the podium and second in the US. As the team came to grow a shocking accident at Zandvoort left Piers Courage was killed after his car exploded after somersaulting off at Oost corner.
As the team reach rock bottom and the money dried up Frank would not give up on his dream. He sold his original team to Walter Wolf in 1976 before founding the current Williams team the following season.
Partnering with Sir Patrick Head the two men would build what is the most successful privateer teams in F1’s history. Based in a carpet warehouse the team managed to sign their first world champion Alan Jones and backing from Saudia.
This laid the foundations for the team to become major players in the sport, podium followed in 1978 and the following season the team took five wins. Jones then went onto secure the driver’s championship and the team back to back constructors in 1980.
Frank appeared to have everything he dreamed of, his life and future of the team would be placed in doubt following a car accident driving back from Paul Ricard in 1986. The Englishman crashed suffering injuries which left him paralysed but despite advised to turn off his life support, Lady Williams refused.
Frank returned to the sport, as the team won that and the following season’s drivers and constructors. Then would go on to dominate the sport and be a leading player through the 1990s.
Even attracting three times champion Ayrton Senna, but Senna and Frank’s dream would end with Senna’s accident at Tamburello at Imola in 1994.
Damon Hill in 1996 and Jack Villeneuve the following season remain the teams’ final champions. Since then there have been brief spells of brilliants but despite being third in 2014 and2015 the team has found itself rooted to the bottom of the sport for the first time in their history.
This article was originally published in September 2020
Hamilton explains why he hasn’t been on simulator
Lewis Hamilton says that the rapid progress Mercedes is making in developing its 2022 car means there is no point in him trying it out in the simulator yet. With two races to go this season, teams are already working flat out because of the technical regulations.
For as well as not wanting to divert any of his attention away from his focus on the current title battle, he says the performance gains Mercedes is finding in the wind tunnel means there is little to gain from getting an early impression of it. Despite him not driving the car yet, he remains in contact with the team to keep an eye on things.
Hamilton told Motorsport.com, “But I’m in constant contact with the team. Even after our races, I’m always talking about, ‘this is where our car is right now, and these are the things I want on next year’s car, keep an eye out for these things.”
“These are the issues I have with the engine, I don’t want to see that next year, please fix it’. I’m constantly having these conversations with heads.” The seven-time champion says that part of his regular debriefs this season have included discussions about the specifics of the 2022 car.
He says that he normally has one meeting with the teams focused on 2022 each week, where potential issues and challenges are expected from the car. The team are making progress in the wind tunnel, because there is no need as Mercedes were on a steep learning curve.
Raducanu thanks Hamilton
US Open champion Emma Raducanu has thanked Sir Lewis Hamilton for his advice and support since her thrilling maiden Grand Slam win in September, describing the seven-times Formula One world champion as her role model.
Speaking after her straight-sets win over Elena-Gabriela Ruse at an exhibition event in London on Sunday, Raducanu said Hamilton was a “really cool guy”. The English-Canadian tennis champion competed in karting and motocross events as a child, and is a big fan of Formula One.
She told UK media, “(Hamilton) said: ‘Be patient, you’ve just got to ride the wave. It’s all good. Don’t worry’. Good reassurance. He has been such a good role model for me in terms of helping me out through the next stages.
The 19-year-old also shrugged off talk of beating Hamilton to the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award next month. Saying “No, definitely not. I am rooting for Lewis in the race. I just don’t even think about it. For me, it’s something that’s so far out of the realms of possibility.”
Raducanu, who is preparing for the 2022 season by undergoing intense five-hour daily training sessions, also spoke about her personal goals.
Sainz believes that midfield will ‘compress’ in Jeddah
Carlos Sainz believes the midfield battle could ‘compress’ massively at this weekends Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. The fast sections of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit is expected to favour Mercedes, but the midfield battle is expected to be wide open.
Ferrari has been better at high downforce and street circuits, while its closest rival McLaren has excelled at low downforce circuits. Meanwhile, AlphaTauri appears to have unlocked more pace from its car recently, and Alpine is on a high after Fernando Alonso’s podium in Qatar. Those factors are the reason why Sainz thinks that the fight for third in the constructors.
The Spanish driver told Motorsport.com, “The last few tracks, it’s a bit unknown. Obviously Jeddah we have no idea what we are going to find there. It looks like a very high-speed circuit, and we have seen in a high-speed circuit that with cars like Alpine, McLaren, and AlphaTauri, all of a sudden the field compresses a lot when it’s a high-speed circuit. So it could be a very tight battle in Jeddah.”
“Then in Abu Dhabi, with the new changes they’ve done to the track also, it looks like a higher speed track than what it used to be. There are less chicanes, and more high-speed nature, and this could also bring the whole midfield back together.” Sainz believes that it will be a tough final two races but was confident that Ferrari can score points.
Ferrari has a thirty-nine-and-a-half-point lead over McLaren in the constructors, with two races to go. While things look good for the Italian manufacturer, team prinpical Mattia Binotto is being cautious.
He added, “Obviously the championship is not over yet, there are two races to go, and we are really focusing on trying to be the best in the last two ones. But if I look at where we were last year, sixth, with little points in the championship.”
“I think we made the most we could do with the current regulations, and the fact most of the car had also very limited opportunities of development as well. Overall, I think that the team has made great progress with what was possible to do.”
Juffali appointed as ambassador for
Saudi Arabia’s first female racing driver Reema Juffali has been appointed as an ambassador for this weekends Grand Prix in Jeddah. The twenty-nine-year-old who raced this season in British Formula Three championship, will be one of the first to drive a lap of the street circuit along the shores of the Red Sea.
She will also take part in a track shakedown of a 1979 Williams, which carried sponsorship for national airline Saudia. On what is set to be a weekend of reflection and celebration following the death of Sir Frank Williams.
Juffali said, “”I’m really looking forward to taking part in the activities over the race weekend and I hope that my story and journey can provide some inspiration to anyone thinking of following their dream.”