DAMON HILL and Lewis Hamilton led the tributes to Sir Frank Williams after the founder of the Williams Formula One team died aged 79.
Williams was the last of F1’s great pioneers. His name was proudly displayed across the doors of his team since 1966 — and during that time he achieved huge success.
The Williams team have notched up 114 wins, nine constructors’ titles and seven drivers’ championships, including Hill when the Brit won the 1996 world crown.
He said: “Frank was just remarkable in every respect with his dedication to the team. His record will stand for a very long time.
“The only person I could compare him to is Enzo Ferrari. He loved Formula One and he loved racing.
“Anyone who runs a team would like to aspire to his achievements and to his record.
“He was a man of few words. Frank had a passion for cars, for racing. He could speak many languages but didn’t really engage in idle gossip. He’s a huge part of the history of the sport.”
A statement from the Williams family said: “After being admitted into hospital on Friday, Sir Frank passed away peacefully this morning surrounded by his family.”
F1 chief Stefano Domenicali added: “He was a true giant of our sport who 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.”
Reigning F1 World Champ Lewis Hamilton wrote on Instagram: "Frank Williams was one of the kindest people I had the pleasure of meeting in this sport, always had time for me and always without judgement.
"I feel so honoured to have called him a friend.
"What he achieved in this sport is truly something special. Until his last days I know he remained a racer and a fighter at heart.
"I have the utmost respect and love for this man, and his legacy will live on forever.
"You will be missed Frank, but I will see you on the other side.
"My thoughts and prayers are with the Williams family."
Williams started out as a racing driver and mechanic — before establishing his own team in Formula Two and Formula Three.
He made the step up to F1 in 1969 and his team finished second on two occasions that season.
Williams was desperate to make the team successful but with limited resources his hands were tied.
At one point he conducted his business from a telephone box after his phone was disconnected.
A failed partnership with a Canadian oil company led to him setting up his new team in Grove, Oxfordshire, in 1977, where they are still based today.
Working alongside friend Patrick Head, they achieved their first victory in F1 in 1979 when Clay Regazzoni won the British Grand Prix.
The following season Williams did the double, clinching the constructors’ and drivers’ titles.
The team suffered a tragic loss when Ayrton Senna crashed and died while driving for them at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
And Williams suffered his own accident which resulted in a spinal cord injury and left him using a wheelchair.
He crashed a hire car in France in 1986 as he dashed to Nice Airport to catch a flight back home.
He was married to Virginia in 1974, who lost her battle with cancer in 2013.
Together they had two sons, Jonathan and Jamie, while their daughter, Claire, took over running the F1 team in 2013 until 2020, when it was sold to investment firm Dorilton Capital.
Current Williams boss Jost Capito said: “The Williams Racing team is truly saddened by the passing of our founder Sir Frank Williams.
“Sir Frank was a legend and icon of our sport.
“His passing marks the end of an era for our team and for the sport of Formula One. He was one of a kind and a true pioneer.
“Despite considerable adversity, he led our team to 16 world championships, making us one of the most successful teams in the history of the sport.
“His values, including integrity, teamwork and a fierce independence and determination, remain the core ethos of our team and are his legacy, as is the Williams family name under which we proudly race.”