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Bottas and Hamilton lead tributes to Williams as family announce exit from team

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Former Williams driver Valtteri Bottas and reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton have paid tribute to Sir Frank Williams and Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams after the family announced they would be stepping down from active involvement in their F1 team after this weekend's Italian Grand Prix.

Bottas, Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel were among those who spoke in glowing terms about the Williams family's impact on Formula 1, as they prepare to bring the curtain down on more than half a century in the sport, following the sale of the Williams team to US investment firm, Dorilton Capital.

“They gave me the chance to become a race driver, and they really, really believed in me and they gave me the opportunity to show what I could do, and without Williams, and especially without Frank, who was, at that time, very much in charge, I would not be here,” began Bottas.

READ MORE: With the family leaving, who will take charge of Williams and what does the future hold?

ANALYSIS: The end of an era at Williams

“I’m forever thankful for Williams, how they helped me develop as a driver and getting my first points with them, getting my first podium in Formula 1 with them. As time went on Claire also became more involved so, to be honest, I was quite sad to see the news that the family is stepping away from the race team and even Frank, he’s going to be pretty much aside.

“It was his life project, and I think he’s done really well and I think the whole family should be very proud of what they’ve achieved. Williams has got the records – what they hold, what they achieved in Formula 1 is really impressive by a family team. So very sad, but I’m very, very thankful for everyone there,” said Bottas in Thursday’s press conference.

WATCH: Triumph and Tragedy – The Story of Frank Williams

Hamilton echoed his team mate's thoughts as he said: “I’m a big fan of Sir Frank and his incredible contribution to the sport. He was always so positive to me as one of the people I respected most here and he’s probably one of the most honest, if not the most honest, people here in Formula 1.

“And so definitely sad to see the end of a chapter… the legacy will continue. I believe they keep the name, at least. I was hopeful at some stage that they were going to come back and be back at the front. I remember dreaming of driving the car that [Nigel] Mansell had or DC’s [David Coulthard's]car or something like that, but it never turned into a real option for me and that’s when I moved, obviously, to Mercedes. I wish them all the best, all the health in the world, for their next endeavours.”

PODCAST: Listen to Johnny Dumfries on being team mates with Senna and driving vans for Frank Williams

LAP OF LEGENDS: Lewis Hamilton's Hot Lap with Sir Frank Williams at Silverstone, 2019

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, who made his test debut for Williams BMW in 2005 and recently purchased Nigel Mansell’s championship-winning Williams FW14B, had his own tribute.

“It’s obviously a shame, destiny has been quite tough on the team, especially on Frank. I think he’s one of those figures that you don’t come across them too often, they’re just a very very rare species. A great guy.

READ MORE: Russell and Latifi insist they have faith in new owners as Williams family step down from the team

“I always had huge respect for Frank and for Williams. It’s obviously a shame, I don’t know if the name will be kept – I hope so – because it stands for a lot of good things, even though the last years have been tough...

“I wish both of them the best for their future, and I hope we still get to see them at the racetrack.”

Daniel Ricciardo, meanwhile, posted on Instagram: "Williams has always been a prominent name in F1. Sad to see this journey come to an end but as a fan of the sport I can’t thank you enough for the memories and your contribution over all these years."

Former Williams drivers, including Nick Heidfeld and 1996 World Champion Damon Hill, also tweeted their own meesages of thanks to the team and the family after the news broke on Thursday.

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