How Williams triumphed in the face of adversity
Sir Frank Williams, who has been given the 2010 Helen Rollason award for outstanding achievement in the face of adversity, has never seen his disability as an excuse not to succeed at the very highest level.
The owner of the Williams Formula 1 team has been a quadriplegic since breaking his neck in a car crash in March 1986 but he has continued to oversee his company with evangelical zeal and commitment. In fact its biggest successes came after his life-changing accident.
Williams does not so much love Formula 1 as he is consumed by it. He still goes into the factory seven days a week, with Christmas Day his only time off. And his ability to carry on regardless, resolutely refusing to let his disability affect his day-to-day work, continues to humble those who know him.
When Williams suffered his injury, at the age of 43, doctors pointed out to those close to him that, based on the examples of other people with similar problems, he would be lucky to live another 10 years.
Nearly 25 years later, Williams continues to attend most of the races in an increasingly marathon F1 calendar, and remains one of the most widely respected men in the sport.
His attitude to his disability is simple - it's his own fault he ended up that way so he had better just get on with it.
If he ever felt differently, there is no evidence for it.
In her brilliant book about Frank, his wife Ginny gives an eye-opening account of the days after the accident.
Williams was a very active man and a keen runner but even when his life was still in danger immediately afterwards, he never - not even to his wife - betrayed any sense of self-pity, depression or any of the other emotions that might be expected of someone in his situation.
He talks about it very little, and simply says to Ginny that they have had several good years of one kind of life together and now they just have to get used to a different one.
Williams's partner, the team's director of engineering Patrick Head, says: "I'm sure Frank had some terrible moments thinking about the change in his life but he's never been one to sit around and be sorry for himself.
"Frank has always been very pragmatic about 'what is the problem and how can I deal with it' and applied that to himself and his injury.
"His enthusiasm and positive attitude always overcome any difficulties he has."
This is the approach Williams has applied to his disabilities ever since.
Looking back, he says in his clipped manner: "I've had a wonderful life; wouldn't dream of changing anything, truthfully."
Williams suffered his injuries when he crashed his hire car while racing his driver Nelson Piquet to the airport after a pre-season test in the south of France.
He discusses the accident now with the same detachment he displayed in recovering from it.
"The car banged over a few times and I'm ashamed to say it was either the sixth or seventh rollover accident I'd had in my life," he says.
"I remember the sharp pain in my neck. I thought: 'Wow, rolling over isn't supposed to hurt that much.' The car finished upside down and I tried to reach for the safety belt to get myself out and I couldn't do it.
"I knew I was going to have the big one but I couldn't slow myself down."
The first few months after his accident he spent focusing on getting into a condition that would allow him to get back to attending races.
"He runs himself with military precision," says Head, "and once he'd found out what the things were that would cause him problems, he adapted his lifestyle to give himself the best opportunities. He's very disciplined about that sort of thing - it's remarkable what he has done since then.
"Frank's always been quite private in his own emotions and in control of his interactions with other people. Once we'd got used to the fact that he wasn't the same person he was before, that he was in a wheelchair, things just sort of carried on as normal."
Stopping competing in F1 never occurred to Williams.
"The thought of retiring or selling the team never crossed my mind," Williams says, "and I also suppose recognised subconsciously it would be a great daily antidote for the difficulties I would find myself in. It's a fantastic job, a very exciting business, highly competitive, always something to worry about, which can be quite healthy, actually."
At the time of his accident, his team were about to embark on one of several periods in which they have dominated the sport.
But success was a long time in coming. Getting to the top of F1 was famously a struggle - Williams operated his team out of a phone box at one stage in the early 1970s, so tight had money become. Once he had achieved success, though, he did not let it go for a very long time, regardless of the misfortune that was to befall him.
The turning point was joining forces with Head, whose first car for the team in 1978 established them as serious contenders for the first time.
They remained more or less at the top of F1 from then until Williams's accident, just missing out on the drivers' title in 1986 but winning it in 1987. But when at the end of that year they lost their supply deal with Honda, producer of the best F1 engines, people wondered whether, with the boss in a wheelchair, they would cope.
That was counting without the incredible commitment and desire of this remarkable man.
Williams and Head have formed a formidable partnership for the last 30 years
Before long, Williams had replaced Honda with Renault, and the team went on to its greatest successes - particularly the 1992 and 1993 seasons, when a car bristling with technology such as active suspension brushed the opposition aside with Nigel Mansell and then Alain Prost at the wheel.
The team have variously dominated F1 in the early 1980s, the mid-'80s, and the early to mid-'90s, winning drivers' titles with many famous names - Jones, Keke Rosberg, Piquet, Mansell, Prost, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve, along with nine constructors' championships.
They have also provided the platform for some of the sport's most brilliant engineers to make their names - among them Adrian Newey, now in charge of design at world champions Red Bull, and Ross Brawn, who ran Ferrari's technical department in their dominant period with Michael Schumacher and now boss of the Mercedes team.
But there have been dark times, too - particularly the death of Ayrton Senna at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix only three races into his Williams career.
It remains one of William's greatest regrets: "I felt that we had been given a great responsibility providing him with a car, and we let him down."
The last few years have seen Williams slip from competitiveness. They have not won a world title since Villeneuve's in 1997 and not taken the chequered flag since the final race of the 2004 season.
And for the first time there have recently been signs that the 68-year-old Williams is slowing down a little.
In November 2009, he and Head sold 10% of the company to Austrian businessman Toto Wolff, with the two men's own shareholdings reducing proportionately from 65% (Williams) and 35% (Head).
And last summer, Williams handed his role as chairman responsible for the day-to-day running of the team to Adam Parr, with Williams remaining as team principal and Head still in charge of the technical side.
When he made the announcement, Williams emphasised that while he was planning for succession, he was certainly not retiring.
As Williams's current lead F1 driver, the veteran Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, says: "I've never met anyone with so much passion for motor racing - it's truly amazing."
So much passion, indeed, that when he had to make a decision a few years ago between building a wind tunnel that would help make the cars go faster and keeping the private plane that allowed him to attend the farthest-flung races, he chose the wind tunnel.
Williams's voice is quieter now - talking is uncomfortable for him, as a result of his disability - and his eyes a little more watery. But a few minutes in his company leaves you in no doubt that his team's current lack of success pains him greatly, and that he is as committed as ever to getting them back to the top of F1.