Formula 1 Team Principal, Sir Frank Williams, dies aged 79

Sir Frank Williams

Sir Frank Williams CBE, founder and former Team Principal of  Oxfordshire-based Williams Racing,  has died at the age of 79.

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

Sir Frank first ran a team in F1 in 1969 and set up Williams Grand Prix Engineering in 1977 which went on to global success, leading the team to 16 World Championships. He was a quadriplegic after breaking his neck in a car crash in March 1986.

Sir Frank Williams’ team won titles thanks to great engineering and drivers such as Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill, but the team’s first victory came in  1979 when Alan Jones won the drivers’ championship and Williams takes the constructors’ title.

In 1992, Nigel Mansell won the first five rounds of the season and he and the team went on to take both drivers’ and constructors’ titles. Mansell then left the sport to compete in IndyCar. The following year, Alain Prost won his fourth drivers’ championship and announced his retirement from the sport. in 1994, Team Williams suffered its first fatality when Ayrton Senna was killed at Imola. In a sombre season the team won the constructors’ championship. In 1996, Damon Hill won the drivers’ championship for Williams and the team took their eighth constructors’ title. The following year Jacques Villeneuve took his first and only drivers’ championship and Williams took the constructors’ crown for a ninth time.

Over the years, Williams  F1 team has been the launchpad for  some of the sport’s most successful engineers. Among them was Adrian Newey – Williams’ chief designer from 1991-1996. Ross Brawn started his F1 career at Williams and went on to win two world titles with Benetton before moving to Ferrari and running their technical department during the time when Michael Schumacher drove for the team. He is now British Formula One managing director, motor sports and technical director.

In January 2020, Williams Grand Prix Holdings sold a majority equity stake in the successful business it had built up, Williams Advanced Engineering Ltd to EMK Capital LLP, an independent private equity company.

Since its inception in 2011, WAE has enjoyed a period of substantial growth, now employing a workforce of more than 300 people, who are currently working on over 40 live projects across a diverse range of sectors, including automotive, motorsport, aerospace, marine, defence and healthcare. WAE has a particularly strong reputation in the automotive industry, playing a vital role in projects for leading brands including Aston Martin, Jaguar, Lotus and Nissan.

The sale of the engineering business was followed by the sale of the team itself, when in August the Williams F1 team was sold to American private investment firm Dorilton Capital, and Sir Frank Williams’ daughter, Claire, stepped away from the business. However, the team continues to race and compete under the Williams brand from Grove, its traditional home.

Jost Capito, CEO and Team Principal at Williams said: “The Williams Racing team is truly saddened by the passing of our founder Sir Frank Williams. Sir Frank was a legend and icon of our sport. His passing marks the end of an era for our team and for the sport of Formula 1. He was one of a kind and a true pioneer. Despite considerable adversity in his life, he led our team to 16 World Championships making us one of the most successful teams in the history of the sport. His values including integrity, teamwork and a fierce independence and determination, remain the core ethos of our team and are his legacy, as is the Williams family name under which we proudly race. Our thoughts are with the Williams family at this difficult time.”

F1 President and CEO Stefano Domenicali said: “Claire Williams called to inform me of the very sad news that her beloved father, Sir Frank Williams, had passed away.

“He 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 friends at this sad time.”