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Sir Frank Williams obituary: A life of triumph over adversity in F1


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ir Frank Williams defied expectations at every turn of a remarkable life and career.

That he recovered from the car accident which left him a quadriplegic and very nearly cost him his life in 1986 to run his eponymous team was astonishing in its own right.

So too the various financial trials and tribulations in which he somehow repeatedly brought Williams back from the brink of extinction, at one stage early in his career running his Formula 1 ambitions from a phone box after his phone line was cut off for unpaid bills.

And yet one of the sport’s great independent teams would go on to become one of its most successful with seven drivers’ titles, nine constructors’ crowns and 114 grand prix victories. Only Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes can boast more.

He attracted some of the greatest international drivers to his team – Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna – as well as British icons in Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill.

He also had an ability to unleash some of the greatest design and engineering talents at the team’s Grove headquarters, from his pivotal and career-long partnership with Patrick Head to giving early roles to Ross Brawn and Adrian Newey, architects of some of F1’s most successful cars.

Amid it all, there was a fondness for the team the length and breadth of the paddock. Most desperately willed the team to return to its former glories, its last grand prix win coming in 2012 with Pastor Maldonado, then followed by a slow fall back down the grid before it was eventually sold to Dorilton Capital last year for £136million.

By that point, Williams had long left the running of the team to his daughter Claire, who had watched her father closely as the team’s head press officer initially and then working her way up the ranks.

For her, there was a pain and anguish that she was never able to return Williams to its previous heights, for him merely a pride in Claire and the other two children he had with his wife Ginny, who died of cancer in 2013 – Jonathan and Jaime.

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