Tuesday the 16th April marks the 77th birthday of Williams Grand Prix Engineering co-founder and Formula 1 heavyweight Sir Frank Williams.
Born in South Shields on Tyneside in 1942, Sir Frank dabbled at being a mechanic and a racing driver before finding his calling as a Grand Prix Team owner.
Sir Frank first entered Formula 1 in 1969 with a privately entered Brabham chassis under the ‘Frank Williams Racing Cars‘ banner with Piers Courage his lone driver in a single car entry.
After a promising start to his career that included a second place at Monaco, Courage was sadly killed in the Dutch Grand Prix of 1970.
Blighted by financial hardship, Frank Williams Racing Cars continued for another five years, Frank living hand-to-mouth between a series of hard won sponsorship deals, before a partnership with Walter Wolf spelled the end of Frank’s involvement with the team that once bore his name.
Undeterrred, Frank was soon looking for a route back into Grand Prix racing. This came in 1977 when he and close friend Patrick Head founded Williams Grand Prix Engineering, building their first car, the Williams FW06 for the 1978 season.
Williams’ first Grand Prix win came at Silverstone in the 1979 British Grand Prix, when Clay Regazzoni led the field home.
114 Grand Prix wins would follow, earning the team 16 F1 titles including a period of utter dominance in the 1990s, before Sir Frank stepped back from day-to-day management of the team in 2012, handing the reins to his daughter Claire, with Sir Frank remaining nominally Williams’ official Team Principal.
Sir Frank’s achievements in Formula 1 are made even more remarkable given the car crash in the south of France in 1986 that left him paralysed from the shoulders down and confined to a wheelchair.
Despite his disability he continued to be one of the hardest working people in sport and remains one of the most respected figures in Formula 1.
He is one of the most instrumental figures in Formula 1 history and deserves much credit for shaping F1 into the sport we know and love today.
Happy Birthday Sir Frank Williams!