Williams Racing founder and former Team Principal Sir Frank Williams has died today at the age of 79. He was admitted to hospital on Friday and is said to passed away peacefully this morning.
An icon of the F1 paddock for decades, Williams founded his eponymous team in 1977 with Patrick Head. It didn't take long for success, with Clay Regazzoni taking the 1979 British Grand Prix in an FW07. A Constructors' title followed in 1980, with Alan Jones also taking the Drivers' Championship that year in FW07B. Following that, as we all know so well, came the Williams glory years: a Constructors' crown in '86, another double in 1987 with the FW11B (including a one-two in the championship for Piquet and Mansell), then the Renault-engined years from 1989-1997.
With Williams heading up the team and Adrian Newey and Patrick Head arguably at the peak of their powers, the team was virtually unstoppable: Mansell in '92 with the FW14B, Prost in 1993, Hill unforgettably in 1996 driving the FW18 and Jacques Villeneuve in 1997. Those drivers' titles were accompanied by five constructors' championships between 1992 and 1997, only missing out in '95. That period in the 1990s assured Williams - both the man and the team - a significant place in the F1 history books, and plenty of fans besides. Furthermore, cynical marketing exercise or otherwise, the Williams-Renault alliance made for one very memorable road car, too...
Though '97 was the final championship win of any kind in F1 for Williams, many will fondly recall the BMW years of the early 2000s, with drivers like Juan Pablo Montoya driving those sensational V10s to memorable wins. Plus of course Williams's reputation (again, man and team) were further bolstered by motorsports aside from F1; developing the Metro 6R4 Group B car, building BMW's stunning V12 Le Mans Prototypes prior to the F1 alliance, and working with Porsche on the 911 GT3R Hybrid, to name but three. No dedication to Sir Frank Williams would be complete, either, without mentioning the BTCC exploits of the late 1990s; from 1995-1999 Williams were involved with Renault, delivering a memorable drivers' title for Alain Menu in 1997. For those of us raised watching Super Touring BTCC and 90s' F1, Williams will always be a special name - and a very special man.
A statement from Jost Capito, current Williams CEO and Team Principal, 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." It really couldn't have been better put; thank you for the memories, Sir Frank - rest in peace.
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