312 podiums, 114 race wins, 9 constructors’ championship titles, 7 drivers’ championship titles, 1 astonishing legacy
The Italian Grand Prix at Monza marked the final race for the Williams family in F1 after 43 years and 739 races. The team has been acquired by Dorilton Capital, an investment firm, who are hoping to ‘restore the Formula 1 racing team’s competitiveness’.
A brief history of Williams
Sir Frank Williams, a driver and mechanic, founded Frank Williams Racing Cars in 1966 and competed in Formula Two and Formula Three until graduating to Formula One in 1969. The team used a second-hand Brabham chassis and worked with skeleton staff but managed two second place finishes that year. Piers Courage, Williams’ first choice driver, sadly died at the Dutch Grand Prix in 1970 but Sir Frank continued to build the team to fulfil their dreams. Frank Williams Racing Cars could not get sponsorship in the following years so the team dissolved in 1975.
Sir Frank started a new team in partnership with Walter Wolf in 1976 but he left in 1977 taking Patrick Head, an engineer, with him.
The Williams Grand Prix Engineering team was founded in 1977 and worked out of an empty carpet warehouse in Didcot, Oxfordshire. This team has evolved over the last 43 years to what it is today and won many races and championships along the way.
Sir Frank is a dedicated team principal and the longest-serving team boss in F1 history despite overcoming many financial and personal hurdles throughout his career.
Most notably, was his road crash in 1986 that left him paralysed and on life support. He lost control of his rental car on the drive from the Paul Ricard Circuit back to the airport and fractured his fourth and fifth vertebrae, rendering him a tetraplegic. Now, at 78 years old, he is the world’s longest-living tetraplegic and he has not let it hold him back.
After Ayrton Senna’s death at the 1994 Imola Grand Prix at the wheel of the Williams, Sir Frank, Patrick Head and Adrian Newey were charged with manslaughter and it took until 2005 for the case to be cleared. During these 11 years, the team continued to develop and expand.
He lead the team to victory and won 7 drivers’ championships, with 7 different drivers, and 9 constructors’ championships, the second best of all time, between 1980 and 1997. The team also established the careers of some of F1’s greatest engineers. Ross Brawn started his career at Williams and went on to become technical director at Ferrari and win his own drivers’ and constructors’ championship in 2009. Adrian Newey is arguably the sport’s most successful design engineer and moved on from Williams to win titles at McLaren and Red Bull.
In March 2013, Sir Frank handed the reigns over to his daughter, Claire, and she became Deputy Team Principal for 8 seasons.
For me my dad is one of the most inspirational individuals that this sport has ever produced.
This era of Formula 1 proved tricky for the Williams team. The car was reliable but significantly off the pace. This lead to issues with sponsorship and the livery was changed frequently as sponsors rolled through.
On 21stAugust 2020, US investment group, Dorilton Capital announced they had acquired the team for €152 million. This settles the debt Williams had found themselves in, as well as continuing to run under the famed Williams name and keep its UK base, factors very important in the family’s decision to move on. With the future of the team secured, Claire Williams announced that the Italian Grand Prix would be her last as Deputy Team Principal and the team will be under new leadership from the Tuscan Grand Prix next weekend.
I still can’t quite believe I’ve ever run my dad’s Formula 1 team. It has been an enormous privilege.
Farewell to the Williams family. You will be greatly missed but your legacy will continue.