In 1986 Frank Williams was given three years to live. It’s now 26 years after the car crash that condemned him to life in a wheelchair and he’s still going strong. He’s just hit 70 and his team has just won its 114th grand prix. That’s more than any team bar Ferrari and McLaren.
I remember the first time I interviewed Williams it was 1995 and I was a bit in awe. Afterall, this was a man who had started his business from a phone booth outside his factory. He’d won world championships and turned himself from ‘Wanker Williams’ into boss of a multi-million pound empire. We sat in the Williams team’s awning at Silverstone. His cars had qualified first and third for the following day’s grand prix and Frank sat at a table with a fruit drink. “Have you always wanted to do this?” I asked, meaning be boss of a mega successful grand prix team. “What drink from a straw?” he answered quick as a flash.
The following day his nurse told me a story about how he’d lifted Frank from his wheel chair into the passenger seat of his Renault Safrane (they had to get rid of them somehow). He went round to the driver’s seat, climbed in and Frank was leaning head first against the dashboard. “Why are you doing that?” the nurse asked. “I haven’t got any bloody choice, have I? You didn’t strap me in did you?” Frank retorted smartly. It says much about a man who can deal with crippling adversity with humour.
I’m not surprised Williams has won another grand prix.If this is the beginning of a resurgence just don’t expect too much too soon. Formula One needs time. No one knows that better than Frank Williams. But I for one wouldn’t bet against his team winning more races with Frank at the helm.