Williams team founder Sir Frank Williams dies at 79

2021 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by

Williams team founder Sir Frank Williams has died at the age of 79, his family have confirmed via the team’s owners.

“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,” they said in a statement.

“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.

“For those wishing to pay tribute, we ask that donations are made in place of gifts to the Spinal Injuries Association, alternatively we would welcome flowers to be placed at the entrance of the team’s headquarters in Grove, Oxfordshire. Details of the memorial service will follow in due course.”

Having run customer Formula 1 cars and briefly formed an alliance with Walter Wolf before the pair split, Williams’ independent team scored its first victory in Formula 1 on home ground at Silverstone in 1979. That breakthrough victory by Clay Regazzoni signalled the beginning of the team’s golden years, which spanned more than a decade.

During that time Williams racked up over a hundred race wins and more constructors’ championships than any of its rivals bar Ferrari. Alan Jones, Keke Rosberg, Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve won titles with the team.

Following its breakthrough successes in the early eighties, Williams’ new partnership with engine manufacturer Honda was beginning to bear fruit when the team’s founder suffered a life-changing car accident at the beginning of 1986. He sustained serious injuries to his spine which left him without the use of his arms and legs for the rest of his life.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Despite this, Williams soon returned to the helm of his team and remained there for decades accompanying them around the world and overseeing their later dominance of the sport from his wheelchair.

By the 2010s, with the team’s performance in decline and Williams’ advancing age taking a toll on his ability to travel to races, he stepped aside and promoted daughter Claire Williams in his place. The team’s most recent success came courtesy of Pastor Maldonado’s shock victory in the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya.

By 2020 Williams had fallen to the back of the grid and following the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic it was sold to current owner Dorilton. The owners chose to preserve its identity, which for many years had been associated with dominance of the sport.

“The Williams Racing team is truly saddened by the passing of our founder Sir Frank Williams,” said CEO and team principal Jost Capito. “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.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2021 F1 season

Browse all 2021 F1 season articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

47 comments on “Williams team founder Sir Frank Williams dies at 79”

  1. Well, condolences to everyone to whom he was dear and peaceful rest for Frank.

    Motorsport legend and all around character.

  2. RandomMallard (@)
    28th November 2021, 14:57

    Absolutely devastating news. A true racer, who really fought for his team. Possibly the greatest team principal in F1 history. RIP Sir Frank Williams.

  3. Sad news. An absolute legend of F1…

  4. That man lived a great life. Sad news indeed.

  5. Very sad. An absolute legend whose achievements will forever be remembered by fans of the sport. Rest in peace.

  6. Oh my god, this is really sad. A legend that dedicated his life to the sport and above all a great man. RIP Sir Frank Williams.

  7. Frank Williams was truly a man of indomitable spirit, who overcame life changing injuries and changed the face of Formula One through sheer force of will.

    He was a true giant of motor racing.

    Condolences to Claire and her family.

    Rest in peace Sir Frank.

    1. +1 well said

  8. Very sad news today about Sir Frank Williams. Although they’re not what they once were and not owned by the Williams family any more, Williams will always hold a special place in formula 1 and Sir Frank worked alongside drivers such as Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet. I’ll never forget getting a replica toy of Damon Hills 1996 FW18 for Christmas one year

    Rest in peace Sir Frank

  9. RIP to a legend and a pioneer of the sport.

    Sir Frank Williams gave everything he had at the sport for 4 decades, achieved a lot with the brand he created from scratch and most importantly, he gave a life lesson to everyone: never give up despite the difficulties that life can throw to ya.

    1. Yessir, +1

    2. An F1 great fir sure but I’m not sure I’d take a “life lesson” from Frank. He dedicated his life to F1 at great expense to his loved ones. His work, life balance was way way off and he was a bit unpleasant in his pursuit of F1 greatness. RIP to an F1 legend!

  10. RIP legend.

  11. A very sad day for the sport. RIP Sir Frank

  12. Thank you for everything you gave us Sir Frank Williams. And condolences to those close to him.

  13. He always seemed like one of the more likeable team bosses.
    Seemed to laugh and smile more than most.
    Sad to see him go :(

  14. A true legend of the sport. I grew up watching the Williams team become an unstoppable force. Jones, Mansell, Hill, Villeneuve and more would pilot these cars to victory, but it was Frank and Patrick that drove the team to greatness.

    Chequered flag. Sir Frank won by a country mile. RIP and thank you.

  15. If only someone like Frank ruled Mercedes straight from 2014, we could have had 7 different world champions… RIP

    1. Such a strange comment. Not everything has to have a Mercedes/Lewis angle. Let’s celebrate the gentleman and reflect on his amazing achievements.

      1. I mean he was from old generation of team bosses. Strict and rigid. Just like Enzo Ferrari. Never allowed any driver overshine the team’s glory.

        1. True, that was a notable trait for him, can be seen with damon hill.

  16. Having got into F1 in the early 90s, it’s hard to underestimate just what a team this man built during the 80s from effectively nothing. Having suffered his car accident, the fact that this didn’t damper his drive for success is a lesson for us all. Although admired, he could be brutal too, I still remember my frustrations when he signed Frentzen instead of Hill for 1997 (Newey also talks about this!) but that really defined his character as a hard worker, and a self-made man in the piranha club, twenty years after the original garagistas. He lived the dream. Rest in peace Sir Frank.

  17. My condolences to everyone who knew him. A truly unique character who overcame and achieved so much in his life. I’m thinking of his raspy laugh and smile now. Take care and thank you Frank.

  18. Huge loss. Rip Sir Frank. What a man! What a magnificent role model to us all of how to react lifes cruel curve balls.

  19. We need more men or women like him
    in this sport. He’s an absolute passionate legend who I won’t ever forget. God speed Sir Frank!

  20. A legend died.
    A legacy as no other.
    But never forgotten
    Rip.

  21. Such sad news. I had been wondering about his health lately. I cannot think of an individual who has had a greater impact on the sport for as many years as him. As a Williams fan from the late 90’s onwards, I’m really gutted. I hope that the team runs with some sort of tribute livery for the last two races this year. RIP Sir Frank.

  22. An amazing character. His motivation and acceptance of reality was remarkable. I really admired this man his team gave me so many memorable moments. Above all I loved the way he expressed himself, without sounding like he was in a hurry yet with no hesitation.

  23. Rest in Peace Sir Frank Williams

  24. RIP Sir Frank. You’ll be sorely missed. Thanks for everything.

  25. Very sad news for F1. Even after all these years, for me Williams is still one of F1’s big teams, and I eagerly await the day when Williams are champions again. Frank Williams deserves this happening once again. Rest in peace Frank Williams.

  26. I was lucky enough to meet him, he was a good man.

  27. Heartbreaking news, a motor racing legend. RIP sir Frank.

  28. Mark in Florida
    28th November 2021, 21:54

    A true legend from the days when a small team could still win a championship. To do it so many times shows his genius for matching the right driver with the right engine in a car that could carry them to win after win. Rest in peace Sir Frank.

  29. Still struggling to come up with the right words.

    My condolences to all in the Williams family, and to those in his extended motor racing family.

    Rest In Peace Sir Frank.

  30. Very very sad day.

  31. garethlevins@live.ie
    29th November 2021, 0:12

    Rip Frank…

  32. A legend with a great legacy however could have achieved so much more had he respected his agreements with Adrian Newey. He was a man who loved his racing team and put it all on the line to compete though (the early days of the team were financially dicey), and I respect anyone who does that to do something they love.

  33. I’ve been following Formula 1 since the 1980s and Williams Grand Prix Engineering was my favourite team. It is painful to see the once mighty team become what it is and the rot started after BMW dumped them. RIP Sir Frank

  34. RIP. Now where Senna’s black box again? Exactly.

    1. Here we go… Sara crawls out from the void… 🤦‍♂️

      1. a) I’m a guy so,
        b) Frank had his hand in what killed Senna and then covered it up.
        I won’t celebrate him.

  35. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    29th November 2021, 4:20

    An icon within this sport. When you think of the most influential people in F1 you think of Enzo Ferrari, Bruce McLaren, and Frank Williams. His legacy will live forever in Formula 1.

    He may have been constrained to a wheelchair but he took giant leaps and should be an inspiration for everyone.

    1. If you want to dedicate your life to something at the exclusion of all else… Frank is indeed your icon. An F1 legend through and through. Let’s be real though. Death should not absolve character flaws! frank was ruthless, unkind, selfish, uncompromising… This makes for sporting greatness but take a look at the most recent William’s documentary to see what he sacrificed for it.
      Each to their own.

  36. I wasn’t following F1 in Williams heydays, but I read all about it. It’s how we got here. He started the tech ban. Sooo good, that they banned him left and right. It’s days gone by. My heart is broken. RIP Sir Williams.

Comments are closed.