It took Sir Frank Williams three tries to establish a Formula 1 team. His first effort got off to a good start in 1969 with two second place finishes. The following year Alessandro de Tomaso partnered with Williams. The team effort ended after one season. Driver Piers Courage died in an accident at Zandvoort.
Williams sold 60% of his team to WalterWolf and eventually sold the rest of his shares in the team. He started Williams Grand prix engineering in 1977. Just three years later, the team won both the world driving title with Alan Jones and the constructors’ championship.
Williams repeated the constructors’ championship in 1981, followed by Keke Rosberg winning the driver’s title in 1982.
The Williams team’s wave of success nearly came to a halt in 1986 when Williams was paralyzed in an auto accident in France. He was hospitalized for three months. Williams did not lose his determination to succeed. The team won another constructors’ title in 1986 and Nelson Piquet won the driver’s championship the next season.
In the early 90’s Williams continued as the top team in F1. The death of Ayrton Senna in a Williams at Imola in 1994 resulted in a charge of manslaughter against Williams. he was eventually cleared of the charges. The carries an “S” on the car for Senna to this day.
Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve won back to back drivers’ title in 1996 and 1997 for the team. The Williams team remained competitive through the early 200s. A sports car accident which severely injured promising young driver Robert Kubica began the Williams team slid. Sir Frank stepped down from the team’s board and his daughter Claire took over in 2012. The team finished third in the constructors’ standings in 2014 and 2015. The team was sold to Dorilton Capital in 2020.
Other drivers who drove for Williams are Mario Andretti, Juan Pablo Montoya, Alain Prost, Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg, and Nigel Mansell.
Williams was the last of the small team owners. It is sad to see Formula 1 become a place where only the mega manufacturers can be competitive. I hope someday we see another Williams or Brawn fighting for a title. Rest in Peace, Sir Frank. Thanks for the great memories.