As the boss of the Williams F1 Team, Sir Frank has competed in Formula One for 45 years. He is the longest serving, most highly decorated and most successful Team Principal in the history of the sport. The Williams Team has won 16 World Championship titles and over 110 Grand Prix victories. Here Sir Frank talks to Dom Reilly about his journey so far.
How did you get in to Formula One?
“My mother was a teacher for special needs children and I used to live with her in Nottingham during the school holidays. I was car mad from a very young age and as a consequence became interested in motor racing. The closest circuits to Nottingham were Mallory Park, Oulton Park and then Silverstone so I used to hitchhike to these venues. Part of the adventure was getting a ride in a car although sometimes I would have to put up with a lorry! It was quite a journey sometimes. I would leave home on Thursday and reappear at two or three o’clock in the morning on Monday morning. I had to knock on the door to be let in. No one was very happy about that but I didn’t care, I just loved motor racing.
Have you had any adventures during your travels?
One that sticks in my mind was travelling from Canada to Watkins Glen after the Canadian Grand Prix in the 1970’s.
Like everyone in F1 at that stage I wasn’t very good at staying in the speed limit so we were rich pickings for the US police. There I was speeding to get to the next Grand Prix in the US when I saw the blue lights in my mirror. “Oh no” I thought. I was particularly worried because at the time I had very little money. I thought, if I get an on the spot fine I’m in trouble because I only had enough money for a snack and some petrol. The policeman took my license and asked if I worked in Formula One. I said “Yes officer."
“Mr Williams” he said “I’ve got some bad news for you”
“Oh no” I thought. “Jail? Surely not”
“Mr Williams, I am afraid you were only third fastest today.” he said with a grin on his face.
I knew I was off the hook then. It appears Jackie Stewart had been through just before me and I didn’t mind being slower than him.
Who is the most interesting person you have met on your travels?
Well the easy answer is Her Majesty The Queen however out of respect for her I am afraid that is not exactly a conversational opportunity.
What is the most important thing you travel with?
I’d like to always remember to take my wallet and passport. Oh and my FOM pass.
(an FOM pass is a Formula One Management pass that allows team members access to the paddock area of race circuits. Everyone – even Sir Frank needs this pass to gain access.)
What is your biggest highlight of your career?
To be honest, I am always delighted to be able to pay the team’s bill at the Monaco Grand Prix!
Just kidding. Of course the first Grand Prix win and then the First Championship were very special.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in business?
Make sure people pay you on time. That is rather hypocritical of me because I wasn’t always prompt paying me debts in the early days. But cash flow is fundamental to any new business.
Also, tell it straight, If you have bad news for someone. Tell them. Simple as that.
Do you like travelling?
I’ve been in F1 for 45 years. I’ve always enjoyed travelling thankfully and I think it is an imperative to travel well. If you travel well you’re in good nick for what you’ve got to do when you arrive.
What journey would you really like to do?
I’d have liked to have been the man that broke the sound barrier.
Actually, I’d have liked to have flown in the Space Shuttle. Can you imagine that? It must be like flying to heaven; Being amongst the stars and then being able to come back again.
Thank you Frank.
Remember, life’s a journey, travel well.
Sir Frank Williams - Founder and Team Principal, Williams F1 Team
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