Frank Williams, founder of the Williams Formula One team, has died.
The team posted a message on Twitter: “Everyone in the team is shocked by the sudden loss of our founder and dear friend. Our thoughts are with his family.”
Williams, 79, founded the team in 1977, and over the years came to serve as team principal until he stepped down in 2009. He was also chairman of Williams group, which also runs the Atlantic and Williams operating companies.
In a statement, Mercedes-Benz Group thanked Williams for his long and distinguished service to motorsport, and said it would respect his wish for the team’s cars not to be driven until after Sunday’s Indian Grand Prix.
“He was a true pioneer in the world of Formula One. Born and raised in central Lancashire, he made his first start at the age of 15 when he drove his Oldham minicab from Blackburn to the former Tandragee circuit in Cumbria for three weeks during the winter of 1957 to help in preparations for the new season,” the Mercedes Group statement read.
“His first day in the sport saw him immediately make a claim to the role of chief engineer, on the strength of his brilliance in drawing 3D models of the car and discussing the correct settings for the team’s unfamiliar steel brakes.
“He established himself as an inventive and insightful engineer and one of the best car designers of the era.”
Mercedes said Williams pioneered F1’s use of computers and ruled the pre-1986 Australian season with his unusual use of wet tracks.