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Motor racing - Team tardy to test but no turmoil, says Williams

Motor racing - Team tardy to test but no turmoil, says Williams
FILE PHOTO: F1 Formula One - Williams Formula One Launch - London, Britain - February 15, 2018 Williams' Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams during the launch Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs -
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PAUL CHILDS(Reuters)
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By Alan Baldwin

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Claire Williams hit back on Wednesday at suggestions her family-owned Formula One team were in crisis, and the factory in turmoil, after they turned up three days late for pre-season testing.

The deputy principal, whose father Frank founded one of the most successful teams in the sport's 69-year history, also rejected a suggestion that she might have to face the consequences and step down.

"We know that we’ve got problems and we’ve got to fix those problems. But Williams is not in crisis, it’s not in turmoil," she told Reuters at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya.

"If you spent five minutes at (the factory at) Grove you’d know that wasn’t the case. We’ve made a big mistake not getting our car out and there’s a number of reasons for that, it’s not just one reason."

Media speculation has focused on the future of technical director Paddy Lowe, who joined from champions Mercedes in 2017 with responsibility for overseeing design and production of the new car.

Asked whether heads would roll, with Lowe seen as the likely casualty, Williams said any such conversations would go on behind closed doors.

She made clear she intended to remain at the helm, however.

"I’m not considering my position at the moment at all. I don’t think that would be the right thing to do," declared Williams.

"Of course as the boss it’s my ultimate responsibility, but it’s everyone’s responsibility in any team to make sure they play their part in getting whatever your product is to the place that it needs to be."

A media session with Lowe scheduled for Wednesday was cancelled, with the team saying they planned to rearrange it for next week.

FINANCIALLY SOLID

Williams, who finished last overall in 2018 with an ill-handling car in one of their worst ever seasons, had intended to get the car on track last Saturday for a private filming session.

That proved an impossible deadline and the team missed the start of testing on Monday with the car only turning up at the track in the early hours of Wednesday and running for the first time in the afternoon.

Williams said the problems had become apparent quite late on, with parts not coming through as planned.

Unlike rivals Haas and Racing Point, Mercedes-powered Williams design and manufacture almost all of their car at the factory in central England rather than contracting out.

Williams refused to go into detail about what had gone wrong, saying she would not wash dirty laundry in public, but recognised the failure had been deeply embarrassing and apologised to the fans.

She ruled out cash-flow as a problem.

"We are very confident in the budget we’ve got this year, it’s pretty similar to the one with which we went racing last year," said Williams. "Financially the team is pretty solid. That’s not my main concern at the moment.

"Any rumours out there that Williams is going into administration at the end of the year are utter rubbish.

"We are a 650-strong operation on the F1 side of the business, nearly 300 people working in advanced engineering, there are 40 brilliant projects. That business is growing 15 percent a year," she added.

"We’ve got two great drivers in our car, a new title sponsor. We’ve finally got our car on track, hopefully in a week everyone will have forgotten these past couple of days and we can just focus on what we do best and that’s going racing."

The relief at finally getting the car out, added Williams, had been palpable in the garage as British rookie George Russell drove out onto the track.

More aerodynamic parts were due to arrive in time for Thursday, when Poland's Robert Kubica will drive.

"I am certain that we will have two cars in Melbourne and a spare chassis," Williams said of the Australian season-opener on March 17.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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