The Williams Formula 1 team has made “bigger gains” than it initially expected during the 2019 season, according to deputy team principal Claire Williams.

Having endured a disastrous campaign so far following delays to its pre-season programme and an uncompetitive car, Williams has made encouraging progress in recent rounds in Germany and Hungary following a series of significant upgrades.

George Russell turned in the team’s best qualifying result of the season to secure 15th on the grid at the Hungaroring, a performance he described as feeling like a “pole lap” for Williams. He went on to finish 16th ahead of the Racing Point of Lance Stroll and Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi.

Asked at the German GP if Williams’ aim is to catch the midfield by the end of the season, Williams replied: “That’s the goal, that’s the ambition from the start of the season which was to close the gap to P9 and get into the midfield.

“Of course we’ve got to have some level of ambition and target and not fall further back. I think from the start of the season we needed to close that gap.

“From the start of the season the gap to us and P9 was 1.5 seconds which is a huge amount to have to close over a season.

“Teams wouldn’t find half 1.5 seconds over the course of a year. So I think it was a case of at the start not letting the gap get any bigger and make small gains.

“I’m really pleased to see we’ve made bigger gains than I think we anticipated we ever could and we are still only halfway through the year I feel it will propel us forward to fight as I know the drivers want to fight and we’ve had a few scraps at the last races with the Haas team.

“We want to be in the mix and in the midfield. It is about slowly trying to find two seconds of performance.”

Williams’ progress has been boosted by recent successful updates, including new bargeboards, turning vanes and floor in a push to find performance.

“From the aero aspect it was one of the earlier elements that we have bought to the track but we have had a lot of mechanical improvements that has been going on that you haven’t seen that has helped stabilise the car and help the drivers unlock more performance,” Williams explained.

“I think the bargeboard showed us that the direction the aero group are taking is the right one, we’ve been waiting quite a long time to see if that is the case, we have fantastic correlation between the track and the tunnel and the work aero have done on rakes, on simulation work and the direction they’ve taken.

“The work they’ve done has really helped move the dial forward in that area. I think George [Russell] has explained it as taking five steps back to move 10 steps forward, it definitely feels like that and it has been a long wait to see the benefits.

“I think in aero you can get so lost in what you are doing and it is so complicated, black magic almost, that you have got to go back to basics and get the basics right and only take one direction and not deviate from it.

“I think we can get a bit lost in a loop in aero so it was a case of taking those steps back and we are now seeing we can move forward.”

Williams is currently anchored to the bottom of the constructors' championship with just a single point to its name, 25 behind ninth-placed Haas.