Frank Williams, the founder of one of Formula One’s most successful and popular teams, has died at the age of 79.
Williams founded the Williams F1 team in 1977 quickly turned the privateer outfit into one of the sport’s best, competing and winning against some of the biggest manufacturers in motor racing. The team won nine constructors’ championships and seven drivers’ championships between 1980 and 1997 and has remained on the grid for over 40 years.
Williams is one of the most important and respected figures in F1 history.
In one of sport’s great underdog stories, his team started operating out of an old carpet warehouse but quickly became the team to beat in F1. Clay Regazzoni won Williams’ first race at the 1979 British Grand Prix, with Alan Jones taking the team’s first world championship in 1980.
Williams continued to run his team despite a serious car crash in 1986 that left him with tetraplegia. Remarkably, his team won the constructors’ championship that same season, and would win both titles in 1987. Williams then established his team as the dominant force of the 1990s.
He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1999 for his services to motorsport.
Although he gave up day-to-day running of his team to daughter Claire in 2013, Frank remained team principal until September 2020. Ahead of last year’s Italian Grand Prix, the Williams family stood down from the leadership of the team following its sale to private investment firm Dorilton Capital.
Until then, Williams had been the longest-serving and most successful team principal in F1’s history.
On Sunday, the Williams team confirmed the news in a statement.
It read: “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.
“For those wishing to pay tribute, we ask that donations are made in place of gifts to the Spinal Injuries Association, alternatively we would welcome flowers to be placed at the entrance of the team’s headquarters in Grove, Oxfordshire. Details of the memorial service will follow in due course.”
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali released a statement saying that Williams “was a true giant of our sport that 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 their friends at this sad time.”
Tributes flooded in from the world of motor racing after the news was confirmed.
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. 💙
— George Russell (@GeorgeRussell63) November 28, 2021
Sad news today
— Valtteri Bottas (@ValtteriBottas) November 28, 2021
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 & @WilliamsRacing. Rest in peace, my friend https://t.co/iWygN5mYzi pic.twitter.com/uz4xyru9l4
— Jean Todt (@JeanTodt) November 28, 2021
It’s a sad day for our sport, Frank Williams will always be remembered as one of the heroes and #F1 icons.
My thoughts and prayers are with his family, especially his daughter, Claire Williams. #RIP🙏 pic.twitter.com/vSs7MUIUFO
— Sergio Pérez (@SChecoPerez) November 28, 2021
We are filled with the most immense and deep sadness at the passing of Sir Frank Williams
His was a life driven by passion for motorsport; his legacy is immeasurable, and will be forever part of F1
To know him was an inspiration and privilege
He will be deeply, deeply missed pic.twitter.com/48JhruQpLK
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 28, 2021
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. pic.twitter.com/oVD73NkSKu
— Zak Brown (@ZBrownCEO) November 28, 2021