End of the line. Williams F1, or Williams Grand Prix Engineering as it was at its founding in the mists of 1977, will race on next season, its name reassuringly branded into the new and more equitable Concorde Agreement beside all its rivals. But is it still 'Williams' without Frank? Not really. Now 78 and not in the best of health, he hasn't run the team for years. But Frank remained its beating heart - until 3 September 2020, the Thursday before the Italian Grand Prix. Our last chapter of this wonderful, quirky, often thorny odyssey coincides with a monumental - and monumentally sad - occurrence: Frank Williams has left the building.
But it didn't have to end this way for the great man and his daughter Claire, de facto team principal since 2013. At the dawn of this modern era, Williams had a golden chance to climb back to where it belonged at the sharp end of F1. And, for a couple of sweet years, the team took that chance - then threw all that good work away. What a missed opportunity.
Back then, Pat Symonds had unfinished business with Formula 1. The academically trained engineer had enjoyed a rich and fulfilling career at Toleman, which became Benetton in 1986, and was a core component in Michael Schumacher's twin world titles in the mid-1990s. When the team became Renault, Pat repeated the feat with Fernando Alonso, ending a five-year period of Ferrari dominance. But the shame of 'crash-gate' from Singapore 2008, when Nelsinho Piquet spun out on purpose to help Alonso win, forced him into exile. The five-year ban was later overturned by a French court and he made a low-key F1 return as a consultant to the small Marussia team. Williams, deep in its own self-inflicted doldrums, needed a calming hand of experience. It appeared to be a perfect match.