I met Frank at the end of 1975. I had worked at Lola Cars in the early 1970s for three years, after completing an engineering degree from University College London, and after participating in a development project. Volkswagen Super Vee engines and then Scott F2 car design. . I had then worked part-time with Ron Tauranac at Trojan Cars while building a boat in the Surrey Docks, and got a call to meet Frank at his job in Reading.
I didn’t know anything about Formula 1 or Frank Williams, but I was completely broke and happy to accept his offer to join the long line of designers he had to work for him.
A week after I started the deal with Walter Wolf was done and with that came Harvey Postlethwaite and the Hesketh cars. I was offered £ 500 to leave or stay and work under Harvey. It was a great learning year for me, and I had the opportunity to observe without being in the direct line of fire.
In early 1977 Frank left, I was with Jody Scheckter and a small test team in Kyalami, South Africa and I got a call from Frank saying he was doing it again, and would I join him? It was a big step for me, but Frank’s enthusiasm and total commitment was contagious, and I decided to go with him. This was the start of Williams Grand Prix Engineering in March 1977.
Photo by: David Phipps
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Frank worked a lot on the business and operations side, and I did on the design and manufacturing side, and we usually weren’t in the “patch” on the other.
In the first few years we had serious tax issues, requiring us to hide from the bank manager, although to be fair to the local bank manager Didcot he went far beyond his authority to support team, but the amounts of money supporting F1 were very different from now.
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There were times when I found the challenges overwhelming, but Frank was always positive, always convinced that “everything will be fine, man,” that it was hard not to be carried away by his positive attitude.
Over the years we have had little reason to argue, but I can honestly say that I have never had any reason to doubt his commitment to supporting me no matter what technical challenges he encountered, even sometimes. when we took a little time to correct them.
Frank Williams with Keke Rosberg, Williams
Photo from: Motorsport Images
He was very admiring of the fast riders, and we won championships with Alan Jones, Keke Rosberg, Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve, not one left among them, but his greatest admiration was for Ayrton Senna. . I’m sure he was devastated when Ayrton was killed in a Williams car, but Frank was very private in his emotions, he never expressed his, I’m sure, anguish that Ayrton must die in a Williams car, he also showed no lack of conviction regarding the company’s pursuit, winning more races and championships.
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Frank was immensely supported by his wife, Ginny, emotionally and practically, I believe. Most or all of his family payments were used to keep Williams afloat early on, and again, although Frank didn’t show it, I have no doubt he was devastated when she died much too young at age 66 in 2013 from cancer.
Frank’s commitment and enthusiasm for success on the track was contagious, not only to me but to everyone else who worked at Williams. Until the last days of the management of the company by the Williams family, Frank could be seen in the factory and in particular in the “Race Shop” with the cars and mechanics of the team, inspiring his staff.
Frank had already retired from the company and the Williams family sold his stake in mid-2020, but his mark on F1 is very strong and he will be remembered by many, including myself.
Photo by: Ercole Colombo