Williams marks 50 years as boss with personal flourish

Silverstone (United Kingdom) (AFP) –


Fifty years since entering Formula One, Frank Williams remains in love with speed and, beyond that, his own F1 team.

As a quintessential Englishman, he could not have wished to celebrate his landmark achievement of five decades as a team owner at anywhere but Silverstone, which this weekend hosts the British Grand Prix.

The 77-year-old remains as competitive as ever and is as determined even if his home race is the only one to which he can travel.

"Honestly, 50 years in F1, I haven't thought about it very much," he said.

"I can't say I've loved every minute of it because some moments have been very difficult.

"I've lost my wife. I've lost drivers. But, Formula One has been very good to me and I'm not going anywhere yet," he added.

In typical fashion, Williams celebrated his longevity at Silverstone by accepting the chance on Thursday to enjoy a hot lap of the track, including sliding corners, screeching brakes and 'doughnuts', with Lewis Hamilton at the wheel.

To follow that, on Friday, his team dished out a special treat to guests at their traditional British fry-up breakfast in the form of bottles of personalised beer, brewed in Germany, with Williams' face printed on the '50 years' label.

His period in charge has made him the longest-serving team boss in F1 history and created a record that is unlikely to be beaten.

Williams' suffered a life-changing accident following a test session in France in March, 1986.

It left him in a wheelchair, but did not stop him running the F1 team that he started with good friend and driver Piers Courage in 1969.

He lost wife Ginny to cancer and saw both Courage and Ayrton Senna die in his cars yet he never faltered in his dedication to his race team.

- Trophy-laden tenure -

Williams' partnership with Patrick Head, his technical director, turned their team into a winning machine for a golden period in the 1980s and 1990s as they won nine constructors' championships, seven drivers' titles and 114 races.

But in recent times, the team has fallen into the doldrums and this season is languishing without a point at the foot of the teams' table.

Yet his daughter Claire remained bullish on Friday when she talked at a news conference about the team's desire to retain British rookie George Russell in their line-up.

"We haven't had any conversations about George potentially leaving the team in the short term because he's on a long-term contract with us," she said.

"Personally, I feel he is world champion material and why would I want to lose George from our team?

"I would do everything in my power to keep George Russell at Williams. My ambition is that, one day, we would be able to provide George with a car where he can start competing at the top of the midfield and then hopefully for podiums -- George is a big part of Williams' future."

The family's competitive instincts remain as strong as ever.