By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Williams Racing co-founder Sir Frank Williams died on Sunday at the age of 79, two days after being admitted into a hospital.
For over five decades, Williams’ along with Patrick Head (from 1977-2004) made a tremendous impact in Formula One. Specifically, when it came to the caliber of drivers they’ve had and went on to win races.
As Team Principal, Williams scored 114 wins and seven F1 Drivers’ Championships with seven different racers, including greats such as Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost.
On top of those seven titles, Williams were the top team in F1 nine times, five of those taking place in the 1990s when they were powered by the mighty Renault engines.
Even competitors that didn’t win a championship for Williams, their names are synonymous to racing. This included three-time world champion Ayrton Senna, who lost his life at Imola driving for the team in 1994, two-time CART champion Alex Zanardi, 2009 champion Jenson Button, and 2003 Monaco Grand Prix winner Juan Pablo Montoya.
Perhaps the greatest trait of Williams is his determination of not being second best. Whether it’s on the track or in his personal life, his legacy will forever be a part of grand prix racing.
A prime example of his determined personality took place in 1986 when a car accident left him tetraplegic, but it certainly didn’t slowed him down.
Williams returned to the paddock at Brands Hatch four months later to see Mansell and Piquet bring the team an inspiring 1-2 result. Williams’ wife, Virginia “Ginny” Williams, proudly hoisted the Constructor’s trophy on his behalf.
Following their last championship campaign in 1997, the era of major brands and car maker support became the dominant way to run an F1 team, but Williams kept soldering on as one of the last privateers in the sport.
The team’s last win with Williams at the helm took place at Catalunya in 2012 when Pastor Maldonado pulled the stunning upset victory from pole position.
Just last year, Williams handed duties to Jost Capito, who issued a statement after Williams’ passing.
“The Williams Racing Team is truly saddened by the passing of our founder Sir Franklin Williams,” said Capito. “Sir Frank was a legend and icon of our sport. His passing marks the end of an era for our team and for the sport of Formula 1.
“He was one of a kind and a true pioneer. Despite considerable adversity in his life, he led our team to 16 world championships, making us one of the most successful teams in the history of the sport.
“His values including integrity, teamwork and a fierce independence and determination, remain the core ethos of our team and are his legacy, as is the Williams family name under which we proudly race. Our thoughts are with the Williams family at this difficult time.”
FIA President Jean Todt paid his condolences on Twitter, saying the following statement:
“Very sad news. Sir Frank Williams leaves a lasting impression on the history of F1. He was a pioneer, an exceptional personality & an exemplary man. On behalf of the entire FIA Community, our thoughts are with his family, friends & Williams Racing. Rest in peace, my friend.”
Current Williams driver George Russell, who brought the team its first podium since 2016 this year at Spa-Francorchamps, described Williams as more than a boss, but a mentor and friend.
“Sir Frank was such a genuinely wonderful human being and I’ll always remember the laughs we shared,” said Russell. “It has been a genuine honor 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.”