Marc Harris and Claire Williams (Getty Images)
The racing Williams family ended their association with Formula One on Sunday with an understated result at the Italian Grand Prix that reflected their recent fortunes and a pledge from one of their drivers to “drive like hell to honour the name”.
After 740 races, 114 victories, 128 pole positions and 16 world championship titles, team founder Frank Williams and his daughter Claire, who had been running the team as deputy team principal, severed their connection.
Their departure, following the team’s sale to the American investment group Dorilton Capital, also marked the end of an era for F1 as Williams were the last team in the sport under British ownership.
On track, Canadian rookie Nicholas Latifi finished just outside the points in 11th position while Briton George Russell was 14th
Both gave heartfelt tributes to the Williams family from their cars on team radio during the slow-down laps after the race.
Claire, who had grown up as part of the team and knew little other than motor racing, was given the pre-race task of waving Latifi out of the garage.
“Great job Claire,” said the team.
She admitted she found her final day on the pit-wall at the Italian Grand Prix was emotional.
“Everyone in the team,” she posted on social media.
“It’s been my greatest pleasure and my biggest honour to work with you. Thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart.”
Her father founded the team in 1977 and, together with technical director Patrick Head, built it from humble beginnings into a slick outfit regarded as serial winners before finding it impossible to compete and beat major car manufacturer teams in the 21st century.
The team’s last win was at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix, a weekend remembered also for a fire in their garage as they celebrated after the race.
On Sunday, after two seasons in which they finished bottom of the constructors championship, the team self-effacingly drew attention to their budget limitations, compared to richer rivals like Mercedes, Renault, Red Bull and Ferrari, by producing a home-made ‘thank you’ card made of cardboard.
Formula One managing director Ross Brawn, who was the technical and engineering force behind all seven of Michael Schumacher’s drivers’ titles with Benetton and Ferrari, started his career with Williams.
On Sunday, he said: “In Williams, we are losing a family who have been part of Formula One for so long, but on the other hand it shows the trust and support for F1 that there is new investment coming in.”
Russell said: “I wouldn’t be here today without Frank and Claire. They gave me my shot in F1, like that have done for so many drivers, engineers, mechanics and countless others over the years.
“Than you for everything. We’ll keep driving like hell to honour the Williams name.”