Frank Williams (Formula One)

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Sir Francis Owen Garbett Williams CBE
Frank Williams Formula One.jpg
Frank Williams in 2011
Born Francis Owen Garbett Williams
(1942-04-16) 16 April 1942 (age 78)
South Shields, County Durham, England, United Kingdom
Nationality British
Education St Joseph's College, Dumfries
Occupation Founder & Team Principal
Employer Williams F1

Sir Francis Owen Garbett Williams CBE (born 16 April 1942) is founder and team principal of the Williams Formula One racing team.

Early life

Born in South Shields, County Durham (now Tyne and Wear), England, son of a serving RAF officer and a special education teacher (and later headmistress), Williams was in part brought up by his maternal aunt and uncle in Jarrow when his parents' marriage broke down. He subsequently spent much of his later childhood at a private, fee-paying boarding school, St Joseph's College, Dumfries, in Scotland. In the late 1950s a friend gave Williams a ride in his Jaguar XK150 and young Frank was immediately hooked on fast cars.[1]

Professional career

After a brief career as a driver and mechanic, funded by his work as a travelling grocery salesman, Williams founded Frank Williams Racing Cars in 1966. He ran drivers including Piers Courage and Tony Trimmer for several years in Formula Two and Formula Three. Williams purchased a Brabham Formula One chassis, which Courage drove throughout the 1969 Formula One season, twice finishing in second place.[1][2]

In 1970 Williams undertook a brief partnership with Alejandro de Tomaso. After the death of Courage at the Dutch Grand Prix that year, Williams's relationship with de Tomaso ended. In 1971 he raced Henri Pescarolo with a chassis he had purchased from March Engineering. 1972 saw the first F1 car built by the Williams works, the Politoys FX3 designed by Len Bailey, but Pescarolo crashed and destroyed it at its first race.[2]

Williams, short on cash (he conducted team business from a telephone box at one point after being disconnected for unpaid bills), looked to Marlboro and Iso Rivolta, an Italian car company, for sponsorship. Though they pledged their support, they did not come through in time and in 1976 Williams took on a partner in oil magnate Walter Wolf. Though the team continued functioning, it no longer belonged to Frank Williams and he left in 1977 along with one of his old employees, engineer Patrick Head. The two acquired an empty carpet warehouse in Didcot, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom and announced the formation of Williams Grand Prix Engineering. This same team and partnership still competes in Formula One and is known as WilliamsF1. They are currently based just outside the South Oxfordshire village of Grove, near Wantage.[2]

The team's first win came in 1979 when Clay Regazzoni drove the Cosworth powered Williams FW07 to victory at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Their first Drivers' and Constructors' championships both came in 1980 with Australian Alan Jones winning the drivers' championship and the team winning the constructors title by 54 points. Between 1981 and 1997, the team won six more drivers' championships and eight more constructors' championships. On 2 March 2012, Williams announced he will be stepping down from the board of Williams F1 and will be replaced by his daughter Claire, although he will still remain with the team in the role of Team Principal.[3]

Spinal cord injury

A car accident on 6 March 1986[4] in France resulted in Williams sustaining a spinal cord injury and becoming tetraplegic. While driving a Ford Sierra rental car from the Paul Ricard Circuit to Nice airport, Williams lost control of the car which then rolled over causing him to be pressed between his seat and the roof resulting in a spinal fracture between the 4th and 5th vertebra. Williams' passenger and the team sponsorship manager Peter Windsor sustained only minor injuries. Since the accident, Williams has used a wheelchair.[1]

Personal life

Frank Williams met Virginia Berry in 1967 and they married in 1974.[5][6] They had two sons, Jonathan and Jaime and a daughter, Claire. Virginia Williams (later Lady Williams and known by many as Ginny) wrote an autobigraphical book A Different Kind of Life (published 1991) that describes her experiences in the formula one team's formative years as well as her husband's near-fatal accident in 1986.[7] She was diagnosed with cancer in 2010 and died on 7 March 2013 at the age of 66.


In 1987, the Queen awarded Williams the title of CBE.[8] He was knighted in 1999.[9] He has been made a Chevalier of France's Legion d'honneur, this honour accorded for his work with Renault engines. In 2008, Williams was awarded the Wheatcroft trophy.[10]

On 19 December 2010, he was awarded the Helen Rollason Award for "outstanding achievement in the face of adversity" at the BBC Sports Personality of The Year Awards.[11][12]

On 15 October 2012, the main road through the new Great Western Park development in Didcot was named "Sir Frank Williams Avenue" with Williams unveiling its name plate.[13]

Death of Ayrton Senna

In May 1994, following the death of Ayrton Senna in a Williams at Imola, he was charged with manslaughter in accordance with Italian law, but was cleared after several years.[14] Since Senna's death, all his F1 cars have carried a little tribute to Senna featuring the Senna "S" logo. The Williams FW33,[15] FW34, FW35, and FW36 all have this on their front wing supports.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Matt Jeffery, Formula 1 Chronicles: Frank Williams,, 21 June 2012
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 People: Sir Frank Williams,
  3. "Sir Frank Williams steps down from the Williams team board". BBC Sport. 2 March 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Formula One team owner Frank Williams". East Valley Tribune. 7 October 2011. Retrieved 21 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Saward, Joe. "Ginny Williams 1946 – 2013". JoeblogsF1. Joe Saward. Retrieved 9 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Wife of Formula One boss Sir Frank Williams dies at 66 after two-year fight against cancer". Mail Online. Associated Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 9 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Folley, Malcolm. "Nobody would be impressed if I now went out and got pregnant ... Claire Williams puts motherhood on hold after taking top job at the team her father started". Mail Online. Associated Newspapers. Retrieved 9 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 50764. p. 9. 31 December 1986. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
  9. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 55354. p. 2. 31 December 1998. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
  10. Formula 1 - Frank Williams awarded Tom Wheatcroft trophy
  11. Sir Frank Williams honoured at BBC SPOTY, The F1 Times
  12. "BBC honours F1 team boss Williams". BBC Sport. 2010-12-19. Retrieved 2010-12-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "The drive of your life for F1 boss". Didcot Herald. 2012-10-17. Retrieved 2012-10-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Williams acquitted in death of Ayrton Senna da Silva
  15. Photograph of the Williams FW33 at its launch

External links