Sir Frank Williams, a Living Legend

2011 German Grand Prix – Friday
Nurburgring, Germany
22nd July 2011
Pastor Maldonado, Williams FW33 Cosworth.
Photo: Steven Tee/LAT Photographic
ref: Digital Image _A8C4283If I asked you to name five legends of Formula One I bet you’d name all drivers, right? I’d probably do the same, but how could anyone miss Sir Frank Williams from their list? The man is a living legend and has come through so much adversity during his life he really should be top of any legend list.

Frank was born in South Shields in 1942 to an RAF officer and special needs teacher, he spent much or his later childhood at St Joseph’s college a private boarding school.

It was in the late 1950s when Frank became hooked on fast cars after a friend gave him a lift in a Jaguar XK150, Personally I think we have a lot to thank this anonymous friend for, if he hadn’t given Frank a lift we may not have had, what is arguably, one of the finest Formula One teams of all time.

Before setting up Frank Williams Racing in 1966 he had a brief career as a driver and mechanic. He made his racing debut in 1961 driving an Austin A40 saloon, thereafter progressing to F3 racing both as a mechanic and driver which he funded by working as a traveling grocery salesman.

During the days of Frank Williams Racing he ran cars in Formula Two and Formula Three, in 1969 he purchased ad Brabham Formula one chassis which driver Piers Courage drove through that season, twice finishing in second place.

1970 saw the death of Courage at the Dutch Grand Prix, Frank entered into a brief partnership with Alejandro de Tomaso a partnership that ended in 1971, also in that year Frank purchased a chaises from March Engineering and ran a race car driven by French man Henri Pescarolo.

In 1972 Williams Works built their first F1 car designed by Len Bailey and called the Politoys FX3, unfortunately, Pescarolo crashed it and destroyed it in the first race of the year.

By this point, Frank was short on money and had started conducting his business from a phone box due to the fact his own phone had been cut off because he hadn’t paid the bill!

Frank decided it was time to seek sponsorship and turned to Marlboro and Italian car company Iso Rivolta, they initially agreed the deal never materialised which meant Frank was still short on cash and still searching for a sponsor, in 1976 he finally found the sponsorship he was looking for in Walter Wolf the oil tycoon.

1977 saw Frank leave Frank Williams Racing along with a young engineer called Patrick Head. The two of the bought a disused carpet warehouse in Oxford and so began the Williams Grand Prix engineering.

These days we know the team as simply WilliamsF1, although Frank has eased his role passing the reigns to his daughter Claire, he can still be seen at many races.

Frank has overcome many trials and tribulations in his life, none less than the horrific car accident that he had in March 1986.

Frank was leaving the Paul Richard circuit

on a journey to Nice airport in his Ford Sierra rental when he lost control of the car. It was very unfortunate that there was an eight-foot drop between the field the car was heading for and the road, the car landed on the driver’s side resulting in Frank being pressed between the seat and the roof causing a spinal fracture since the accident Frank has been confined to a wheelchair.

One would find it hard to write anything about Frank Williams and not include the untimely death of Ayrton Senna, under Italian law Frank was charged with manslaughter although he was cleared many years later.

Frank has been quoted as saying “Ayrton was a great man he had that fierce competitive spirit that every racing driver should have. But off the track, he was a calm, charming man and that’s what made him stand out”

Frank married his wife Virginia in 1967. they had three children Jamie, Jonathan, and Claire, Ginny, as she was known by many, sadly passed away in 2013

Frank was awarded a CBE in 1987 by the queen, then in 1999, he was knighted.

He was made a Chevalier of France’s Legion d’honneur an honnour which was presented to him for his work with Renault.

2008 saw Frank awarded the Wheatcroft trophy which is presented to people who have made significant contributions to the motorsports world.

On December 19th, 2010 Frank was awarded the Helen Rollason Award for outstanding achievement in the face of adversity.

Frank even has a street in Didcot named after him.

Now let me ask you the same question I asked earlier, would you now put Sir Frank on or even at the top of your list?

Donna Marie, deputy editor

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