Inspired by his father Michael, who raced sportscars in the 1950s, and after discovering a career in the military wasn’t for him, Patrick Head, equipped with a degree in Mechanical engineering, joined racing car chassis manufacturer Lola.
Without realising, Head had already begun the relationship that would influence the rest of his working life, having met Frank Williams, the man with whom he would co-found the Williams Formula 1 Team.
Without much recognition or success at Lola, Head left the car industry to concentrate on boat building.
Patrick Head and Frank Williams found Williams Grand Prix Engineering
In 1977 Frank approached Patrick with the aim of prizing him away from boats and getting him involved in his new Formula 1 project and so Williams Grand Prix Engineering was born with Williams and Head as 70/30 partners.
Williams Grand Prix Engineering entered Formula 1 with a March car for 1977, with a view to Head designing and building their own chassis for the following year, and their first Formula 1 season proper. And so it was, in 1978 with the backing of Saudi Airlines and future Williams World Champion Alan Jones that the FW06 made Williams’ first assault on the Formula 1 World Championships.
In the ensuing years, many championships were to follow, both drivers’ and constructors’, but it was perhaps Frank Williams’ serious injury in a car crash in the summer of 1986 that was to be Head’s sternest test, when he had to assume responsibility for the running of the team alongside his existing duties. Despite this, the team still succeeded in winning three of the four titles available to them in 1986 and 1987.
In 1990, Williams recruited Adrian Newey as technical director to work alongside Head, and so began one the most dominant era in Formula 1 history, with the Williams team winning nine titles in six years.
In 2004, Sam Michael was appointed by Williams as technical director, and Head moved to the role of Director of Engineering, a role he occupied until his resignation in 2012.
Many of the sport’s top engineers have cited Sir Patrick as an influence, including Ross Brawn, Adrian Newey, Paddy Lowe and Frank Dernie.
Patrick Head was knighted in 2015 for his services to motorsport.
2019 Patrick Head’s return to Williams
After a number of years in retirement, Head returned to Williams mid-2019 following the departure of Paddy Lowe with the team in the thick of its worst ever run of results.
“A Formula 1 car is a jigsaw puzzle, and everything has to work together to create a masterpiece. That’s what we are missing at the moment. That’s what he’s trying to come in and help achieve, something a bit more fluid between the race team.” said George Russell of Head’s return.
“My co-founder Patrick Head was the design genius who turned us from a small upstart into a world championship winning force” said Sir Frank Williams of his partner and friend.