Robert Kubica believes it is unfair to label Williams as Formula 1’s weakest team, despite its terrible start to the season.

Williams has endured a tough 2018 campaign so far and has fallen from an established midfield contender to the back of F1’s pecking order. The Grove-based squad opted for an aggressive aerodynamic philosophy with its car but the design back-fired, leaving the team propping up the constructors’ championship with just four points. 

However, Kubica - who drove its 2018 challenger in pre-season testing and during free practice sessions in Spain and at this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix in his role as Williams’ test and reserve driver - feels the team has faced undue criticism. 

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“I think it is unfair to put a sticker on Williams that it is the weakest team,” Kubica said. “It is true that it is the weakest team in this period, but if we say about next year, who knows? 

“Otherwise nobody would be willing to drive if they think your way in this team. And I think if you ask everybody in the paddock who wants to come to Formula 1, they will still sign for Williams.

“It is not because they are desperate to drive, but its [because] everything can change. This team I think has potential and shown in the past that they can do a good job, that they can deliver a good car.

“I don't think that in couple of months all the people become not capable of doing it. Of corse there are things to be sorted, but this we keep internally and as every team in the paddock you can always improve.

“I think nobody was expecting Williams, which was midfield team, to struggle so much,” he added. “I think nobody was expecting Sauber being really the slowest, weakest team last year, fighting for midfield position or going into Qualy 3. Things can change very quickly in Formula 1.”

A Williams driver finished bottom of the timesheets in both practice sessions at the Red Bull Ring on Friday, as the team showed little sign of progress in Austria. 

It followed on from a poor weekend at Paul Ricard, where Williams languished half a second adrift of the field in 19th and 20th during qualifying, before Sergey Sirotkin finished last of the remaining runners in the race, while Lance Stroll retired. 

“We are coming from a difficult period, but I think we will be more competitive here than we were one week ago - this is only because of external factors, it’s not because of our package,” Kubica explained. 

“So there is some variation but we see this even with the top teams, but it’s more predictable so this gives you more confidence and you are able to minimise losses which we have anyway from different areas in the car.”

Kubica said Williams’ biggest weakness so far this year stems from a lack of downforce, which the Pole described as being a “big medicine” for an F1 car. 

“There is only one thing which is changing performance of the car of three seconds or two seconds per lap; and its name is downforce,” he added. “If you have more downforce, everything becomes much easier.

“Drivers drive better, engineers they have more room for setup, the tyres are working better because you switch them on earlier and you have less degradation. There is no medicine maybe for everything, but there is a big medicine which is downforce in an F1 car.”

When asked to name the biggest strengths of the FW41 from his experience of driving the car, Kubica replied: “Engine. Power unit.

He followed up on his answer by joking: “You asked for one!? Livery is nice, colours are nice.”