'Deep sadness': World mourns death of F1 'giant' Sir Frank Williams

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·6-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Sir Frank Williams is seen here before a Formula One grand prix. Pic: Getty
Sir Frank Williams is being remembered as one of the great pioneers of Formula One. Pic: Getty

Tributes have been pouring in across the motorsport world after news of Sir Frank Williams' death, with the British icon being remembered as one of the most influential men in Formula One history.

Williams, who was the founder and former team principal of the Williams Racing Formula One team, has died at the age of 79 to mark the end of an important era in motorsport.

Under Williams' stewardship, the British team won the F1 drivers' title seven times - including the first one that was annexed by Australian Alan Jones in 1980 - and the constructors' championship on nine occasions.

'PULL YOUR FINGER OUT': McLaren's brutal message to Dan Ricciardo

'SHOULD NOT HAPPEN': F1 world in disbelief over 'crazy' drama

'VERY CLEAR': Lewis Hamilton at centre of F1 cheating storm

In a statement, the Williams team said: "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. We request that all friends and colleagues respect the Williams family's wishes for privacy at this time."

Williams was one of the most remarkable figures in British sport, taking his team from an empty carpet warehouse to the summit of Formula One.

He was part of the sport's fabric for more than half-a-century, and his story was all the more extraordinary following the horrific car crash he suffered in France which left him with injuries so devastating that 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 life and career - enabled him to continue from his wheelchair.

Until his death, he was recognised as the world's oldest surviving tetraplegic - someone with the inability to voluntarily move the upper and lower parts of the body and often referred to as quadriplegia.

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.

"One wonders that if people like Frank had not been around in the early days whether Formula One would have survived today," said Bernie Ecclestone, who ruled F1 for 40 years.

"He was one of the people that built Formula One.

"His story is incredible. Nobody lived as long as him in his condition (as a tetraplegic).

"But Frank never complained. He never whined and grizzled. He got on with things the best he could. He was a fighter. Frank was just Frank. He gelled with everyone, and everyone liked him."

F1 president and chief executive Stefano Domenicali described Williams as "a true giant of our sport".

Domenicali added: "He 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 etched on our sport forever. My thoughts are with all the Williams family and friends at this sad time."

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton was among the many drivers, present and past, to pay tribute to the legendary icon.

'A genuinely wonderful human being'

Briton George Russell, the Williams driver who will join Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes next season, said: "Today, we say goodbye to the man who defined our team.

"Sir Frank was such a genuinely wonderful human being and I'll always remember the laughs we shared.

"He was more than a boss - he was a mentor and a friend to everybody who joined the Williams Racing family and so many others."

Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill both won championships in a Williams car.

Pictured here, Sir Frank Williams during practice day for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2019.
Sir Frank Williams during practice day for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2019. Pic: Getty

Triple world champion Ayrton Senna also drove for Williams before his death at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. Williams was charged with manslaughter for Senna's death but was acquitted several years later.

Hill, the 1996 world champion, told Sky Sports: "The only person I could compare him to is (Ferrari founder) Enzo Ferrari.

"Frank loved Formula One and he loved racing. Anyone who runs a team would like to aspire to his achievements and to his record.

"He was a man of few words. He could speak many languages but he didn't really engage in idle gossip. He's a huge part of the history of the sport."

with AAP

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting