Former Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has paid tribute to the late Frank Williams as a pioneer who helped to build the modern sport and without whom it might have ceased to exist.
Williams, the founder and former team principal of the Williams Racing Formula One team, died on Sunday, aged 79, marking the end of an era in motor sport.
The eponymous team he founded, still the second most successful in terms of constructors' championships and third oldest, was sold to U.S.-based Dorilton Capital last year.
Williams came from an era where title-winning teams were run by their founders, men such as Enzo Ferrari, Ken Tyrrell and Lotus boss Colin Chapman who are all long gone.
"Without those type of people I doubt whether Formula One would have still been going now. Probably Ferrari would have stopped and that would have been it," Ecclestone, 91, told Reuters.
"He was one of the people that built Formula One."
Under Williams' stewardship, the British team won the F1 drivers' title seven times - including the first one that was annexed by Australian Alan Jones in 1980 - and the constructors' championship on nine occasions.
Williams was one of the most remarkable figures in British sport, taking his team from an empty carpet warehouse to the summit of F1.
He was part of the sport's fabric for more than half-a-century, and his story was all the more extraordinary after the horrific car crash he suffered in France which left him with injuries so devastating that doctors considered turning off his life-support machine.
But his wife Virginia ordered that her husband be kept alive and his sheer determination and courage - characteristics which personified his life and career - enabled him to continue from his wheelchair.
Until his death, he was recognised as the world's oldest surviving tetraplegic.
Ecclestone, who took over and ran the Brabham team in the early 1970s, recalled Williams as an old friend who got over life's financial and physical obstacles with charm and determination.
"Frank was a little bit special as a person. And that sort of showed in the way he kept going," he said.
Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill both won championships in a Williams car.
Triple world champion Ayrton Senna also drove for Williams before his death at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
Williams was charged with manslaughter for Senna's death but was acquitted several years later.
"The only person I could compare him to is (Ferrari founder) Enzo Ferrari," Hill, the 1996 world champion, told Sky Sports.
"Frank loved Formula One and he loved racing. Anyone who runs a team would like to aspire to his achievements and to his record... He's a huge part of the history of the sport."
Briton George Russell, the Williams driver who will join Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes next season, said: "Today, we say goodbye to the man who defined our team.
"Sir Frank was such a genuinely wonderful human being and I'll always remember the laughs we shared.
"He was more than a boss - he was a mentor and a friend to everybody who joined the Williams Racing family and so many others."
Australian Associated Press