Frank Williams celebrates his 600th Grand Prix
This year, team owner Frank Williams became the longest serving entrant in Formula One history and this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix, which is round six of the 2008 Formula One World Championship, will be his 600th Grand Prix.
“As most people would expect,” says Williams, “reaching 600 Grands Prix means very little to me! I do have to admit, however, that there have been some brilliant moments over the 40 years that I’ve been racing, and there have also been some moments of great sadness. Most of the time it has been a most pleasurable experience. If I was 40 years younger, I would still choose the same path towards where I find myself today.”
Williams’ first world championship race was the 1969 Spanish Grand Prix at Montjuic Park, at which he entered a Brabham BT26 for his friend Piers Courage. An engine problem cut short their race, but the pair went on to finish second at Monaco only two weeks later.
During the course of Williams’ four decades in the sport, he has won 113 races, seven drivers’ world championships and nine constructors’ world championships. He has also been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including two Queen’s Awards for Export, France’s Legion D’Honneur, rarely awarded to foreigners, as well as a knighthood to add to his CBE in 1999.
The team’s director of engineering, Patrick Head, is an integral part of Williams’ success, their partnership being one of the most enduring in the pit lane, while some of the most famous names in the sport have driven their cars.
In light of Williams’ 600th race, Patrick, the team’s current drivers, Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima, the team’s world champions and those drivers on today’s grid who have raced for Williams, all give their thoughts on his latest milestone.
Patrick Head, director of engineering, Williams:
“For Frank to reach 600 Grands Prix is a hell of an achievement. I know this will sound rather trite, but he really loves Formula One, and motor racing in general, and I think that’s the secret of his longevity. Frank employed me in November 1975, since when I haven’t seen much change in him, except for the obvious physical changes as a result of his accident in 1986. When we first started working together, I suppose you could say he was a bit like Tigger (of Winnie the Pooh fame), full of enthusiasm and excitement. Since his accident, he’s become a deeper thinker and much more strategic, and I think that has benefitted the team. Being Frank, I expect him to be the least interested person in the 600 celebrations in Monaco. He’ll be too busy thinking about the future!”
“Frank’s 600 races is a pretty impressive record, and to be the longest-serving entrant is amazing. I obviously wasn’t around when he started in the sport, but I believe he still has the same enthusiasm for racing now that he did then. It’s great to be a part of his team and to be with a team with such a strong history. I wish him many more great races in the future.”
“600 races is a really amazing achievement. I feel very proud that I’m a part of Frank’s team and that I’m here to celebrate with him. The chances of my beating that record are rather slim, but I hope to be with Williams for as long as I can.”
Alan Jones, Williams world champion 1980 (60 races, 11 wins):
“I always knew Frank would reach this milestone. His resilience to the sport, and his energy and enthusiasm for it, have never ceased to amaze me. Most people would have run out of steam! I look upon Williams as family. I grew up with them and I’d like to think we all grew together. We all just gelled and got on extremely well and pulled out the results. Frank and Patrick are unbelievably professional. They would walk over broken glass and hot coals to go racing and I wish them well as they fight to set more records.”
Keke Rosberg, Williams world champion 1982 (62 races, 9 wins):
“600 Grands Prix is a number which doesn’t bear thinking about! I stopped after 114, although I’ve visited a few since then. But Frank’s completed nearly 40 years in the sport, which is amazing. His situation is unique because he really is the last Team Principal in the pit lane that goes motor racing for its true essence, and that’s to race. He has a great team around him, and I hope Williams get back to winning because that is the only thing that matters to Frank.”
Nelson Piquet, Williams world champion 1987 (31 races, 7 wins):
“Congratulations, Frank! I’ve sometimes wondered whether, if Frank hadn’t had his accident, maybe I could have stayed with Williams longer. If I had, we probably would have won a number of championships together.”
Nigel Mansell OBE, Williams world champion 1992 (95 races, 28 wins):
“Brilliant achievement, with many successes along the way. I feel very proud and privileged to have been part of the Williams history.”
Alain Prost, Williams world champion 1993 (16 races, 7 wins):
“I have a lot of admiration and respect for Frank, both for his incredible career and his rich personality. I have rarely seen someone so passionate and dedicated to his sport. Frank is a real example for all in the Formula One community.”
Damon Hill, Williams World Champion 1996 (65 races, 21 wins):
“I see Frank as a kind of monarch. Williams is his army; Patrick is his general and he fights the fire breathing Ferrari dragon for England. I suppose that would make me one of his knights! Or one of those nights?! Either way, Frank is a stupendous fighter; the epitome of stoicism and a great man. It was an honour to drive for his team. 600 and still fighting to win. Best wishes to Frank and the team.”
Jacques Villeneuve, Williams world champion 1997 (49 races, 11 wins):
“Congratulations, Frank. Hard work and passion pays off. Thank you for the championship and my most enjoyable years in Formula One.”
David Coulthard, Williams driver 1994 - 1995 (25 races, 1 win):
“Frank is a remarkable man. He’s highly intelligent, yet also modest, and he’s an out and out racer. He’s never been against taking a punt on a young driver, which is what he did with me. I owe my Formula One career to him.”
Jenson Button, Williams driver 2000 (17 races):
“Frank gave me my big break in Formula One back in 1999 when he asked me to test one of his cars. For that, I will be forever grateful to him. That first year in 2000 was a great learning year for me and both he and Patrick were very patient. We had some fantastic races together.”
Nick Heidfeld, Williams driver 2005 (13 races, 3 podiums):
“When I think of Frank, a lot comes to my mind. First, I remember when I was racing in the lower categories of the sport and his team was dominating Formula One. It won several world championships and Frank was a leading character. Then there was 2005, when I raced for him. I’m very grateful for the chance he gave me, and I think the shoot-out for that seat between me and Antonio Pizzonia was typical of the team. Frank was straightforward and honest with me, and he finally gave me the drive. 600 Grands Prix is a very impressive number. Congratulations, Frank - I wish you all the best!”
Mark Webber, Williams driver 2005 - 2006 (36 races, 1 podium):
“There are a lot of people in this paddock who could learn a lot from Frank. He’s a racer, with a lot of tenacity and determination. I have a lot of respect for what he’s achieved.”