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How Williams traded podiums for alarming obscurity

In the final part of our history of Williams, DAMIEN SMITH recalls how Martini sponsorship and Mercedes power yielded a brief flowering of promise before Williams slipped to the back of the grid again - and the founding family decided enough was enough

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.

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