SirFrank Williams, the legendary founder of the Williams F1 team and one of the most important figures in the history of the sport, has passed away aged 79.
According to a statement from the team, Williams was admitted to hospital on Friday night and passed away on Sunday morning surrounded by his family.
After starting his career as a racing driver himself, Williams founded his first team, Frank Williams Racing Cars, in 1966. After purchasing a Brabham, he ran the car for his good friend Piers Courage, until the young British racer died in 1970.
Despite being devastated by the passing of Courage, Williams continued racing, providing a car for future Le Mans legend Henri Pescarolo in 1971, before producing the first ever car under his name in 1972.
Constantly searching for funding, Williams would eventually sell his team to Canadian oil magnate Walter Wolf, but he and engineer Patrick Head would almost immediately create a new race team: Williams Grand Prix Engineering, the team that competes to this day.
Just two years after leaving his original team, Williams achieved his first victory in Formula 1, as Clay Regazzoni drove a Cosworth-powered FW07 to first place at the British Grand Prix in 1979. The team’s first world Drivers’ title, for Alan Jones, came the following year as well as a first Constructors’ crown.
Over the next forty years Williams would rack up 114 Grand Prix victories, nine Constructors’ titles and seven Drivers' for racers including Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, Keke Rosberg and Nelson Piquet.
Williams faced personal battles away from the F1 scene. In 1986 an accident in a road car near the Paul Ricard circuit in France would leave him permanently in a wheelchair after he broke his spine.
Despite his injuries, Williams continued to lead the team until 2012, when he stepped down from the role, with his daughter Claire taking his place. Claire would remain in place until 2020, when the Williams family stepped away from the sport, selling the team to Dorilton Capital.
After his passing a statement from Williams 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.”
Current Williams driver George Russell posted: “Today we say goodbye to the man who defined our team. Sir Frank was a genuinely wonderful human being and I’ll always remember the laughs we shared.
“He was much more than a boss, he was a mentor and a friend to everybody who joined the Williams Racing family and so many others in the motorsport community.
“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 his team.”
He is survived by his daughter Claire and sons Jonathan and James. His wife Virginia died of cancer in 2013 at the age of 66.