Frank Williams, a Life Devoted to Formula One

It's impossible to look into Formula One without considering Frank Williams. First as a driver in a single seater and later as the "boss" of his own team.
Frank Williams, a Life Devoted to Formula One

Last update: 11 April, 2019

Every Formula One fan is familiar with Frank Williams and the life he’s devoted to Formula One. Aged over 70 years old and wheelchair-bound, he’s always caught on camera in the Williams garage. What fans may not know, is that his life is very interesting. Keep reading to learn more about his intense and tragic biography.

Frank William’s life has always been marked by tragedy –at birth, he was abandoned by his parents– and hard times have always been present as much in his professional life as his personal life. In spite of this, Williams has never given up or stopped fighting for his dreams, setting an example of courage and perseverance. 

Frank Williams: a better crew chief than a driver in a life devoted to Formula One

Frank Williams began his career in Formula One in 1961 as a driver. Six years later, in 1967 and after a few modest results, he made the decision to abandon his career as a driver. Instead, he decided to focus on leading the pit crew as crew chief. This is when he developed his full potential and revealed his true talent. After participating in the design of several single-seaters in 1977 he managed to establish his own team.

williams formula 1
After 40 years as part of the starting grid of Formula One, Williams has experienced ups and downs. Currently, they are one of the teams struggling to earn points. In spite of this, their numbers are impressive:
  • 689 Grand Prix
  • 9 World Constructors’ Championship
  • 7 World Drivers’ Championship
  • 114 victories
  • 128 pole positions
  • 302 podiums

Along with these statistics, it’s worth mentioning the great drivers who have been part of the Williams team such as, Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost.

For Frank Williams and a life devoted to Formula One, March 8th, 1986, changed his life

If there’s an important date in the life of Frank Williams, it’s March 8th, 1986. After spending the day at the French track Paul Ricard, testing for his team, Williams suffered an accident. This accident would leave him in a wheelchair for the remainder of his life. 

The accident took place near to the racetrack that Williams had just left. He was driving a Ford Sierra in the company of a reporter who was working on an article. Despite that they were both wearing their safety belts, Frank Williams suffered injuries that left him with a serious paralysis.

At the end of that season, Frank Williams returned to the circuit and was able to continue with his work as crew chief. Despite his reduced mobility as a consequence of the paralysis, Williams continued to hold the position of crew chief and traveled with his team around the racetracks of the world.

The death of Ayrton Senna, another blow

On May 1st, 1994 Ayrton Senna tragically died. At that time, the Brazilian was a Williams team driver and his death was a terrible shock for the team. Furthermore, during the investigation of the accident, the Italian court decided to charge the members for reckless homicide. Although ultimately, all of the team members were acquitted because it could not be proven that they were responsible for the tragic accident.

Ayrton Senna


Retirement from the racetracks

During the 2012 preseason, Frank Williams announced his retirement from Formula One. At 70 years old and after a whole life devoted to the sport, Williams considered it was time to move way from Formula One. As in all family businesses -although in Formula One it’s not as usual- Frank Williams made way for his descendants, specifically his daughter Claire.

Since the season of 2012, Claire Williams has been the team chief and one of the most powerful women in Formula One. Her father is still working behind the scenes for Williams.

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