Williams embarrassed by team's late start to 2019 testing

MONTMELO, Spain -- Claire Williams understands how bad it looks that her team missed the opening two and a half days of testing for the 2019 season.

Missing over 25 percent of the potential running of the preseason would be a problem for any team, but the Grove outfit also happens to be the second most successful team in F1's history -- its nine constructors' championships are second only to the 16 of Ferrari, while it has also won seven drivers' titles. But the team's recent past has not been so successful: It finished at the bottom of the championship last year, its worst-ever finish, and lost the title sponsorship of Martini and the financial support of new Racing Point owner Lawrence Stroll.

It cancelled a planned filming day last weekend due to the late completion of the car and that delay spilled over to this week, with its FW42 being delivered to the Circuit de Catalunya paddock early on Wednesday morning. Rookie driver George Russell drove out of the garage shortly after lunch, but the reigning Formula 2 champion had only one lap to his name when Williams -- who runs the day-to-day operations of the team founded by her father, Frank -- spoke to the media.

"This is not a situation that we anticipated," she said. "It's certainly not a situation that we ever wanted to find ourselves in.

"We're not just disappointed. It's embarrassing not bringing a race car to a circuit when everyone else has managed to do that, particularly a team like ours that has managed to bring a race car to testing for the past 40-odd years.

"So we can only apologize. I would apologize to our fans, I would apologize to all the people that have had the pressure really dialed up on them at [team headquarters] Grove over the past few days to get everything ready, just to get us to this point today, and mostly to George and Robert [Kubica], who were looking forward to a car on Monday so that they could prepare and have the most amount of time possible to prepare ahead of the season. But they have been fantastic in this. They have been very understanding and very supportive."

Williams wouldn't discuss the reasons for the delay, saying she wanted to complete a full investigation at Grove beforehand. She said she has no concerns about the mood of the team going into the new season.

"We have talked a lot about the culture at Williams. We are lucky we have a great team who have a great spirit. We lost one person from our race team last year. When you are doing badly to only lose one person says a lot about the spirit we have within Williams. We do need to prove to the workforce that we know things are right.

"We talk to them about that. We spend a lot of time talking to our team so they know what we are doing and what changes we are making and they have bought into that journey and they are on the journey."

The team cancelled a planned media session with technical chief, shareholder and board member Paddy Lowe that was slated for Wednesday evening. Williams said that Lowe was "focusing his energies on making sure the car is in the best possible shape" after it had finally made it to the track.

When asked if she was satisfied with Lowe's performance, Williams replied: "I've read a lot of speculation about his position. Right now all I am focused on and the team should be focused on is making sure the car is in the right place."

Pressed on the same question later by Sky Sports, Williams said: "It's probably a number of things. We don't want to really go into the detail of how.

"We just need to do our analysis and the most important thing now is that we have got this car here. We can now spend a little bit of time looking at what went wrong. Clearly we know the main culprits... not the main culprits, but the main elements to why we are delayed. But we don't want to discuss that and we are not going to be airing our dirty laundry in public.

"It's not appropriate. We have got to do a full analysis now back at the factory and make sure this never happens again."

Russell completed only 23 laps on Wednesday. The team's running would have largely consisted of systems checks, meaning it will effectively need to squeeze eight days' worth of testing into the remaining five. Thursday is the final day of the opening test, with the second one starting next Tuesday (Feb. 26).