Sir Frank Williams, the founder and erstwhile team principal of the British Formula One team, died on Sunday, aged 79.
Williams was part of the sport’s fabric for more than half-a-century. He oversaw 114 wins, as well as seven drivers’ and nine constructors’ world championships.
“Frank was one of the old-timers who went back an awful long way,” said Bernie Ecclestone, who ran Formula One until Liberty Media's takeover in 2017.
“One wonders that if people like Frank had not been around in the early days whether Formula One would have survived today. He was one of the people that built Formula One.
“It’s the end of an era.”
Williams’ achievements were made all the more remarkable following a road car accident in 1986 which left him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Until his death, he was recognised as the world’s oldest surviving tetraplegic.
Williams was knighted in 1999 but his team were never able to replicate their heyday of the 1980s and 1990s. His daughter Claire assumed the day-to-day running of the team in 2013.
Williams became an irregular fixture in the Formula One paddock in recent years, and at last season’s Italian Grand Prix in Monza the Williams family contested its 739th and concluding race after selling up to Dorilton Capital. Claire Williams soon left her post as deputy team principal.
Stefano Domenicali, Formula One chief executive and former Ferrari team principal, said: “Frank was a true giant of our sport that overcame the most difficult of challenges in life and battled every day to win on and off the track.
“We have lost a much loved and respected member of the F1 family and he will be hugely missed. His incredible achievements and personality will be etched on our sport forever. My thoughts are with all the Williams family and their friends at this sad time.”