The Pioneer: The Story Of Sir Frank Williams

May he rest in peace...

6w ago

Enzo Ferrari, Colin Chapman, Ferdinand Porsche, Sir Frank Williams... all these names have one thing in common, and that is being pioneers in the motorsport and automotive world. We can go on and on for days naming all the people who have changed the car and racing world forever, and every one of those names is special in its own way. Yet, there are a few names that stand out the most. Taking your dream, putting it out there, and doing everything to achieve that set dream takes a singular person with an enormous passion. Sir Frank Williams was one of those remarkable people who were able to do it.

It takes an intense and passionate person to work in the world of motorsports and Formula 1. And a small boy from South Shields, United Kingdom was willing to take up the challenge and catapult himself into the lively world of Formula 1. After finding little to no success in racing, Williams turned himself into the car-building and team business, he wanted to take his racing heart on another journey and create his own team in open-wheel racing, which is known as Formula 1. The iconic team wasn't all glamorous and successful it may seem as it was in the 80s, and 90s, but it all started from humble beginnings and Frank worked his team upward from there.

Taking his British team from a ran down carpet warehouse to a numerous championship-winning team that would see a lot of success is more than just remarkable. It may look easy, but Sir Frank faced many obstacles and adversity through it all and got the team where it is right now until his death, today on November 28th. He was hooked on racing ever since he was a kid, and even though his career wasn't meant to be behind the wheel, he found his passion in creating the wheel. Frank Williams Racing Cars' would then go on to become a matured and developed professional racing team that entered into Formula 2, and moved its way up into the menacing world of Formula 1 in 1969. The Briton went alongside some of the biggest names in the car and motorsport world. Ferrari, Mclaren, Lotus, and-so-on, but nothing made William's tremble with fear. Regardless of being an unknown and new team that was looked down upon, Sir Frank Williams made it his mission to be the best and to make a name for his team and himself. And that's exactly what he did.

Frank brought a second-hand Brabham chassis to the table and said let's go on with it, and with that, the Williams team finished on the podium at only their second Grand Prix in Formula 1, and then went on to secure second place at the United States. If those podiums didn't foreshadow their admiring future, then I don't know what does. Williams was able to take a hand-me-down chassis and only a couple of engineers and make them podiums finishers, nothing could hold him back, even the saddening death of Piers Courage didn't stop him from moving forward. Courage was racing furiously with the team since their Formula 2 days, and when he was killed in the middle of their rise to success in 1970, Frank was absolutely dejected and saddened. But Frank knew he couldn't give up on his dream.

Financial issues hit rock bottom and were a slap to the face in the early 70s, but in 1977 'Williams Grand Prix Engineering' was born and finally came into the racing world. Partnering with Patrick Head, he and Frank made an unstoppable duo, with Head as the engineering mind who created some of the first Championship winning cars for Williams, and Williams as the business expert. Both of them combined made even the biggest of teams shake and feel threatened. Although there were still some aspects that were holding the Williams team back, with determination and hard work, things started coming into play. They hired Australian driver Alan Jones, who would become one of the most crucial characters in this chapter of their story, and after gaining sponsorship from the Middle East, Williams was ready to take the fight on the track with their new confidence and tools.

The still relatively small team's first podium since 1969 was taken in 1978, a slow start to the 1979 season didn't stop them or put them on hold, as the team bloomed in the second half of the season. With Alan Jones taking 5 wins and their first World Championship and Constructors' Championship, later on taking their first back-to-back constructors' championship. Everything was coming true for Williams, but he still wasn't done yet, and the challenges started arising once again.

Plans were cut short right in the middle, there was another serious obstacle to face. Tragedy occurred as Sir Frank Williams suffered a spinal cord injury in a car crash in France, 1986 that would leave him with severe paralysis and in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. This adversity and this life-threatening challenge, and this pain was fought through endlessly day and night, Frank was a fighter and did all he could to return to the racetrack. Doctors advised his wife Ginny to turn off the life support because it seemed to be over for him, but she wouldn't let them, and she fought by his side to this day. Her bravery and her loyalty led to Frank returning to the paddock and counting on that same determination his wife had for him into his Formula 1 team.

With the same resilience, Williams won the 1986 World Championship and won the same titles the following two years after that. In 1992, a special and well-awaited World Championship victory came along with Nigel Mansell in the Williams FW14B. And since that moment on, the Williams Formula 1 team has been etched and engraved into motorsport and automotive history forever, putting this team equally alongside all the other famed names like Ferrari and Mclaren.

“His resilience is phenomenal, he will always look at whatever situation is in front of him and work out how to make the best of it”

Sir Patrick Head

He took the fight to all the big names as they turned their heads to look at this new team standing right next to them, fighting for the same championship. He built up the family-owned Formula 1 team to achieve 114 race victories, 313 podiums, 9 constructors' championships, and 7 drivers championships. Not only that, but he created countless legendary names in the sport today. But the numbers and all the incredible wins aren’t the things that matter at the end of the day, it's his passion and love for Formula 1 and racing that are portrayed through every car and each win the team has achieved. He and his family stood through it all, during every triumph and victory, to every heartbreak and disappointing result.

Sir Frank William's generosity, kindness, how he would run at every track before the race, and how his face lights up when he’s around these 200mph race cars is what he will be remembered for forever and what will last in every single one of these cars. His mentality is what kept this team together and moving forward, he was a racer at heart. Throughout all time, his legacy will be planted in Formula 1 and motorsport history. Formula 1 will never be the same without his personality and smile lighting up the paddock, and even though this chapter has ended, the story has not. Rest in peace, Sir Frank.

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Comments (18)

  • RIP Frank. I stood next to him one time in the paddock, he was in his wheel chair. I didn't bug him, I just sort of looked at him side eye.

      1 month ago
  • Welcome back with such a timely article Throttle Girl, and may Sir Frank Rest In Peace. Williams was my favorite team in the 1990s with endless top drivers…Damon Hill winning the championship in 1996 and then being dropped. Driving a FW19 in 1997, Jacques Villeneuve edged out Michael Schumacher for the championship. Much to my delight, the final race at Jerez had one of the most controversial incidents in F1 history. Fighting for the championship, Schumacher deliberately tried to force

    Villeneuve off the track, but Jacque held his ground, won the race and championship, and Schumacher’s points were withheld.

    It was nice to see the photo of a young Frank before he was injured. Your article does justice to his grit and determination.

      1 month ago
  • RIP. A true legend and an inspiration

      1 month ago
  • A pioneer indeed. God rest his soul. Condolences to the family and the racing community. And the fans.

      1 month ago
  • Wonderfully written article, the man truly was a legend.

      1 month ago