The Grove outfit had a disastrous 2018 campaign, languishing at the rear of the field. The team has been sinking towards the bottom of the grid in recent years, after finishing third in the constructors' championship in 2014 and 2015.
In 2016 and 2017, it slipped to fifth place before entering the uninspiring 2018 season that saw it finish in P10. Lowe admits that the cars have been flattered by the efficiency of the Mercedes power units: “There have been good years and bad years relatively and they can be explained by different factors that vary in your favour,” he said.
“But the underlying point is we haven’t been competing in the way you need to compete to win, which is our objective. We have essentially been making up the numbers. We won a race in 2012 but I think you’d agreed that was an isolated result and then the win before that was a long time ago.
“Yes, we’ve had some reasonably good years, as an example 2014 was a good year. But I think you’d agree we were flattered by a good engine and other teams who for their own reasons didn’t have a good year. The underlying performance hasn’t been where it needed to be for a very long time.
"It’s not only about investment, it’s about a process and even culture. There’s a huge amount of change going on but it’s only starting. These things take a long time. This is why we won’t give any prediction of results.
"Because the first thing you’ve got to do is change your engineering and then when you change that you start making better products, i.e. racing cars, so even to make the changes in the organisation takes time for those effects to come through, it won’t be instantaneous.”
Williams will run with a revised line-up of George Russell and Robert Kubica in 2019, and will enter a new chapter following the departure of title sponsor Martini. Lowe is confident that the team is changing for the better, but can't say when the positive changes will transfer to on-track results.
“I can only tell you we’re going to get better and that’s not in terms even of results,” he said. “The engineering is already getting better and that’s directionally correct
“What that translates into in the short term I can’t predict because the other thing to remember is that the other nine teams are all very strong. Formula 1 has an incredibly strong technology base now, every team is populated by the brightest engineers from the best universities, they’re run by good management teams, they’re all very well-structured. It wasn’t always like that.
“It’s difficult to know the best way to say this but even to come 10th in Formula 1 now and actually be in touch with the grid is a very difficult job because of the standard.
"We can’t pretend to think it’s just straightforward and easy to be better than that so I can’t predict when that’s going to happen. I’m very optimistic that we are already moving forwards and that will translate in due course into better results.”
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing