Sir Frank Williams: Formula 1 team founder dies aged 79

Sir Frank Williams and his daughter Claire
Williams and his daughter Claire were well respected figures in the paddock

Sir Frank Williams, founder and former team principal of the Williams Racing Formula 1 team, has died aged 79.

He built the team named after him into one of the most successful in the sport.

During his time with Williams, the team won nine constructors' championships and seven drivers' titles, and dominated much of the 1980s and 1990s.

He and daughter Claire moved away from the sport in September 2020 after selling Williams to US investors.

In a statement, the Williams team said: "It is with great sadness that on behalf of the Williams family, the team can confirm the death of Sir Frank Williams CBE, founder and former team principal of Williams Racing, at the age of 79.

"After being admitted into hospital on Friday, Sir Frank passed away peacefully this morning surrounded by his family.

"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."

Williams was a wheelchair user after suffering a spinal cord injury in a car crash in France in 1986.

F1 president and chief executive Stefano Domenicali paid tribute to Williams, whom he described as "a true giant of our sport".

Domenicali added: "He overcame the most difficult of challenges in life and battled every day to win on and off the track. We have lost a much loved and respected member of the F1 family and he will be hugely missed.

"His incredible achievements and personality will be etched on our sport forever. My thoughts are with all the Williams family and friends at this sad time."

The Williams team enjoyed their first F1 race win at the 1979 British Grand Prix at Silverstone with Swiss driver Clay Regazzoni at the wheel, and the following year Australian Alan Jones steered the team to the drivers' and constructors' titles for the first time.

In 1994, Williams, along with technical director Patrick Head and chief designer Adrian Newey, was charged with manslaughter in Italy following the death of driver Ayrton Senna in a crash at Imola but he was acquitted several years later.

The team have not won a title since Canadian Jacques Villeneuve's 1997 drivers' triumph, and there was an eight-year gap between Juan Pablo Montoya's victory in a Williams-BMW at the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix and the shock win for Pastor Maldonado in Spain in 2012 - the last time a Williams took the chequered flag.

'A huge part of the history of the sport'

Damon Hill, who won the world title with the team in 1996, said Williams had played an integral part in the history of the sport.

"Frank had a passion for cars, for racing. There was nothing else he was really interested in doing," Hill told Sky Sports News.

"He was just remarkable in every respect and in his dedication to the team. His record will stand for a very long time.

"The only person I could compare him to is Enzo Ferrari. He loved Formula 1 and he loved racing. Anyone who runs a team would like to aspire to his achievements and to his record.

"He was a man of few words. He could speak many languages but he didn't really engage in idle gossip. He's a huge part of the history of the sport."

Current Williams drivers George Russell and Nicholas Latifi also paid their respects to the former team principal.

"Sir Frank was such a genuinely wonderful human being and I'll always remember the laughs we shared," said Russell.

"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."

Canadian Latifi added: "RIP Sir Frank Williams. Such sad news. A huge loss for our sport and our team.

"It's been an honour to represent your name on the world stage and we will continue to push hard to take the team back up the grid."

Analysis

Chief F1 writer Andrew Benson

Sir Frank Williams was one of the greatest Formula 1 team owners in history and a man who became an icon through his determination to compete at the highest level despite a severe disability.

Williams did not so much love F1 as was consumed by it. Although his health prevented his active involvement in the team for the last few years, he literally lived in the factory. The team he set up was his life - as it always had been.

Read more here.

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