Legendary driver and former Formula 1 team owner Sir Frank Williams has died at the age of 79. A statement issued by the Williams family announced, “After being admitted into hospital on Friday, Sir Frank passed away peacefully this morning surrounded by his family.”
Frank Williams founded Williams Grand Prix Engineering and served as the Formula One team’s principal until 2020. He led his eponymously named racing team to 114 Grand Prix victories and nine World Constructors’ Championships.
Williams’ time in F1 traversed the full spectrum of both sporting competition and life in general. His team won its first world championship in 1980, its fourth season of operation. Then, the team won the championship again the following year. In 1986, he nearly lost his life in a road accident. He survived. However, he was rendered tetraplegic after fracturing his spine in the crash. His recovery and the team’s 3rd world championship won that season were largely credited to the guidance and leadership of his wife, Virginia “Ginny” Williams.
The Williams team was a family business in more than just ownership. His love of racing was also shared by everyone in his family. In an interview with F1 last year, their daughter Claire expressed how much Ginny cared for and was involved in the team.
“A lot of people probably don’t know the instrumental role my mum played in Williams. If it wasn’t for her money in the beginning, my dad would never have achieved his dream and this team wouldn’t have gone on to achieve what it did. She was always there behind the scenes. She always said she was Williams’ biggest fan. She really was. Just like the rest of our family, she cared deeply for the team.”
Claire Williams would eventually take over the team’s day-to-day operations in March 2013 as deputy team principal. Ginny Williams passed away earlier that month after a lengthy battle with cancer. Despite the team’s recent struggles to replicate their successes of the 1980s and 1990s, Sir Frank Williams remained just as passionate about his team and Formula One.
Williams Grand Prix Engineering was sold during the 2020 season. Claire Williams was offered to remain in her position, but she declined. The team continues to compete under the Williams name, continuing Frank Williams’ legacy.