Williams’ Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams has apologised to the team’s fans as she explained that the team simply got their build process wrong for 2019.
With the former World Champions missing the first two days of testing with their new FW42 still lying in pieces at their factory in Grove, Claire finally addressed the situation when she spoke to media on the third day of testing.
Less than an hour after George Russell fired up the new car and trundled down the pitlane to complete a solitary installation lap before withdrawing back to the safety of the garage, she explained that the team had simply gotten their build process wrong and they didn’t realise until too late: “It became apparent quite late that we wouldn’t make the shakedown and, subsequent to that, not make the first day of testing. We thought we could get it all together to make Tuesday but parts just wouldn’t come through as we’d hoped or in the time that we hoped for in our plan.”
“It transpires we couldn’t make it until today but I will not be going into any detail on why that happened. It’s not appropriate to discuss the ins and outs of what went wrong; we haven’t even completed the inquest at Grove yet.”
Williams, as one of the former behemoths of Formula 1 with a raft of titles behind them, have a huge fanbase all around the world. Claire, aware of this, addressed those fans as she apologised for the mess the team had made of their preparations for 2019: “This is not the situation that we anticipated, or one we want to be in. We’re not just disappointed, but embarrassed to not be bringing a race car to a circuit when everyone else has managed to that. Particularly for a team like ours which has delivered a car for testing every year for 40 years.”
“I would apologise to our fans, and to the people at home in Grove who really had the pressure turned up on them over the last few days to get everything ready for today. And to Robert [Kubica] & George [Russell] for not having a car ready to get them fully ready with the most time possible for the season. They’ve been fantastic, and really supportive.”
However, Claire also stressed that she felt the team had turned the corner and gotten on top of their short-term issues. She spoke of the relief that Williams feel after finally getting their delayed FW42 on track: “It’s a big relief, and you can sense it in the garage. It would be underestimating it to say it’s been difficult for everybody; it wasn’t done intentionally. I can’t express just how difficult it’s been for the team so to see the car leave the garage, there was a palpable sense of relief. We’ve got lots to do. We’ve to get out today and complete the next five days of testing and be ready for Melbourne.”
“We’re back on track and we have the car on track. We’ve work to do but we always said that putting this team back together was going to take time, and going to take work. I think we got to car build and that process clearly isn’t right at Williams and we haven’t nailed that yet. We have to make sure it’s fit for purpose for 2020. This isn’t crisis mode but we’ve got a journey we’re on. It takes time to fix everything and make sure we don’t make these mistakes again.”
Such a delay would obviously cause a chain reaction in terms of the delaying of understanding of the car, unlocking of performance, and figuring out how best to unleash the potential of their troubled new offering. Claire says the impact of the delay isn’t really quantifiable yet: “We’ve missed two days of testing. Not ideal – that’s a lot of potential kilometres. I don’t think we’ll know the full impact of that until a bit later on. We’re doing everything we can to condense the program we had to maximise the time available and we’re going to focus our attention on the most critical areas to get the car in as best a shape as possible for Australia but we can’t tell the impact yet.”
“There’s a few parts that are still due to arrive later tonight and we’ll be able to start concentrating on the aero program tomorrow.”
With many pointing the finger at Technical Director Paddy Lowe for being the catalyst of the team’s misdirection on the 2018 car and now the troubled start to 2019, Claire was not willing to discuss the safety of his position at the team: “Right now, all we’re focused on at the team is the car and getting that in the right place. We will have two cars and a spare chassis in Melbourne. We’re fully concentrating on that in our ops department right now.”
“It’s not appropriate to air our dirty laundry in public. It’s not right to do that for the people working hard at Grove. We got it wrong, and we are going to fix that and hopefully you’ll see a much more competitive Williams in future.”
“We’re clearly aware of some of the issues but it’s too early to discuss them in any detail. It’s probably not something we’d do anyway as we need to resolve what went wrong after analysis. And then solve it so it doesn’t happen again at Williams.”