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F1 | Legendary team owner and boss Sir Frank Williams passes away at the age of 79

Sir Frank Williams, who was formally the owner and Team Principal of Williams Racing, died in hospital this morning at the age of 79. Williams first entered the World of Grand Prix Racing in 1969, led his team to nine constructors championships before handing the reigns to his daughter Claire in 2012.

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F1 | Legendary team owner and boss Sir Frank Williams passes away at the age of 79
Fuente imagen: Formula One on Instagram

The former owner and Team Principal of Williams Racing, Sir Frank Williams, has died at the age of 79.

Williams, who had been ill for some time, passed away this morning.

The Williams family released a statement shortly after his passing.

''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.”

Williams’ current CEO and Team Principal, Jost Capito, also released a statement on behalf of the whole team.

“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."

Formula 1’s CEO Stefano Domenicali referred to Williams as a true giant of the sport in his statement.

“This morning 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 with etched on our sport forever. My thoughts are with all the Williams family and friends at this sad time.”

Williams first entered the World of Grand Prix Racing in 1969, when he entered flatmate and heir to the Courage brewing company empire, Piers Courage, for that year’s season. The team had immediate success, with Courage finishing second in Monte Carlo and the United States to cap off a successful first year in Formula 1.

But tragedy struck a year later as Courage was killed at Zandvoort, leaving Williams without a star driver.

With results and funds not forthcoming, Williams, along with young designer Patrick Head, left the team in 1977 to start afresh, and after just two years of existence, Williams finally managed to win his first Grand Prix as a team owner, with veteran Clay Regazzoni taking victory in that year’s British Grand Prix ahead of René Arnoux and Jean-Pierre Jarier.

The team went one better, a year later when Alan Jones held off the might of Ferrari, Renault, Brabham and Lotus to secure the team’s first drivers and constructors championships, with Williams picking another constructors and drivers championship in 1981 and 1982.

Williams life would be changed forever in 1986 when he was paralysed after a road accident near the Paul Ricard circuit in Southern France, with Williams life being saved by journalist Peter Windsor who helped him out of the crumpled wreckage, and his wife Virginia after she had organised for her husband to be repatriated to England in order for him to receive life-saving treatment.

A year after his accident, Williams resumed his duties as team principal, and in that same year, Nelson Piquet won his third World Championship ahead of teammate Nigel Mansell. The latter missed out on the championship for the second year in succession.

Mansell would eventually become World Champion in 1992, driving the all-conquering FW14B to nine race victories. However, the season ended in turmoil when the Brit left the team to move to Indycar, with Frenchman Alain Prost taking over from the Englishman for the following year.

Prost duly wrapped up the 1993 championship before retiring from the sport at the end of the year, paving the way for Ayrton Senna to finally get his chance at Williams after two years of tense negotiations.

The partnership would tragically end three races into the 1994 season when Senna was killed at the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, with the team’s former test driver Damon Hill rallying the beleaguered outfit to its seventh constructor championship. However, Hill would lose out to Benetton’s Michael Schumacher in the drivers’ championship after a controversial collision between the pair at the final race of the season in Adelaide.

Hill would become champion two years later after a season-long battle with rookie Jacques Villeneuve. The Canadian followed up on his teammate’s success a year later to win the 1997 World Championship. 

Villeneuve's championship would be Williams' last at the time of writing, as the departure of long-time engine supplier, Renault and chief designer Adrian Newey caused the team to fall behind its rivals.

Williams stepped down from the team’s board in March of 2012, with his daughter Claire taking over as deputy team principal until she stepped down from her duties shortly after the team was brought by Dorilton Capital, ending the family’s 43-year presence in Formula 1 in the process.

He is survived by his daughter Claire and his two sons Jonathan and Jamie. 

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