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Sir Frank Williams: Inspirational icon who took his team to the F1 summit


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ir Frank Williams was one of the most remarkable figures in British sport.

Williams took his motor racing team from an empty carpet warehouse to the summit of Formula 1, overseeing 114 victories, a combined 16 drivers’ and constructors’ world championships, while becoming the longest-serving team boss in the sport’s history.

Williams’ story is made all the more extraordinary by the horrific car crash he suffered in France which left him with injuries so devastating doctors considered turning off his life-support machine.

But his wife Virginia ordered that her husband be kept alive and his sheer determination and courage – characteristics which personified his career – enabled him to continue with the love of his life, albeit from the confines of a wheelchair.

He would remain in his role as Williams team principal for a further 34 years before F1’s greatest family team was sold to an American investment group in August 2020 for £136million.

Francis Owen Garbett Williams was born in South Shields on April 16, 1942 to an RAF officer and a headmistress. Educated at St Joseph’s College, a private boarding school in Dumfries, it was there where he became obsessed with cars following a ride in a Jaguar XK150.

A travelling salesman by day, Williams fulfilled his racing ambitions at the weekend and, aged just 24, he launched his own team, Frank Williams Racing Cars.

Four years later, they were competing in Formula Two, and with flatmate and closest friend Piers Courage behind the wheel, Williams graduated to F1 in 1969 using a second-hand Brabham.

But tragedy struck at the 1970 Dutch Grand Prix.

Courage ran off the track, one of his front wheels hit his helmet, and his car burst into flames. Courage’s grizzly death in a car bearing his name left Williams devastated. Broke and with spiralling debts, he reluctantly sold 60 per cent of his team to Walter Wolf in 1975.

But Williams was not made to be a back-seat driver and, desperate for independence, he severed ties with the Canadian businessman.


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