Frank Williams (Formula One)

Frank Williams (Formula One) bigraphy, stories - Formula One team owner

Frank Williams (Formula One) : biography

16 April 1942 –

Sir Francis Owen Garbett Williams CBE (born 16 April 1942) is founder and team principal of the Williams F1 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 largely 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.

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.

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.

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 desperately 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.

The team’s first win came in 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 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.

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. Since Senna’s death, all his F1 cars have carried a little tribute to Ayrton featuring the Senna "S" logo. The Williams FW33, FW34 and FW35 all have this on their front wing supports.

Spinal cord injury

A car accident in March 1986 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 Peter Windsor sustained only minor injuries. Since the accident, Williams has used a wheelchair.


In 1987, the Queen awarded Williams the title of CBE. He was knighted in 1999. 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.

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. The F1 Times – Sir Frank Williams honoured at BBC SPOTY

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.