Tributes from across motor sport have been paid after the death of Sir Frank Williams, at the age of 79. Williams founded the team that bore his name in 1977 and went on to enjoy enormous success in Formula One. His achievements have been recognised across the racing world after he died peacefully on Sunday.
Williams’ team won seven drivers’ titles and nine constructors’ championships. They took their first grand prix win in 1979 and under Williams’ leadership as founder and team principal they were a dominant force in the 80s and 90s. From inauspicious beginnings in a warehouse in Didcot, William’s fierce determination to compete and be victorious paid off as he forged one of the most successful teams in F1 history.
Their driver champions alone reads as a roll of honour. Alan Jones secured their first title in 1980 and Keke Rosberg, Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve all went on to take championships for Williams.
Alongside his co-founder and designer, Patrick Head, Williams built a team that competed at the very top of the sport for decades, overcoming the might of longstanding rivals such as Ferrari. Williams also overcame great personal tragedy when he was paralysed from the neck down after a car accident in 1986. Confined to a wheelchair he went on to lead his team with the same steely tenacity that characterised his whole career.
The seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton summed up the respect and admiration felt for Williams. “Sir Frank Williams was one of the kindest people I had the pleasure of meeting in this sport,” he wrote on Twitter.
“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.” Williams devoted his life to F1, becoming the longest-serving team principal in the sport’s history. He also endured the deaths of close friend and driver Piers Courage in 1970 and in 1994 that of Ayton Senna while driving a Williams at Imola. He was profoundly saddened by both events.
Hill remained a great admirer of Williams despite being dropped by the team after winning his title in 1996. “He was just remarkable in every respect,” Hill said. “His record will stand for a very long time. As a team founder, there won’t be another one like him again.”
The Williams team had endured harder times in recent years, fighting at the back of the grid, while his daughter Claire had taken over day-to-day running in 2013. Yet her father’s passion remained, his resolve and desire to compete as fierce as ever. He brought recognition and success to British racing with a record that is second only to that of Ferrari in F1 constructors’ championships.
The three-time world champion Sir Jackie Stewart acknowledged how important a role Williams had played in the industry. “We will miss him always. He was a great man for British motor sport and always did the right thing,” he said. “A great man and a very good team owner. I raced against him.