It was announced early this morning by the Williams team that Rob Smedley will re-unite with former Ferrari driver Felipe Massa after joining the team as Head of Vehicle Performance. Smedley’s new role at the Williams is more senior than that of race engineer, which he performed on Massa’s car at Ferrari which means that the pair will not be working as closely together as before.
Smedley first engineered Massa’s car during the 2006 season and they successfully forged one of the most familiar working relationships in Formula 1 between the driver and engineer. The radio messages from Smedley to Massa have become particularly well known within the sport.
For example, the radio message to Massa from Smedley at the 2010 German Grand Prix is the most famous. Smedley’s comment of “Fernando is faster than you” to Massa when he was leading the race from Alonso.
At the time, team orders were banned from the sport. During the 2010 season, Ferrari considered at that stage that Alonso looked the better prospect for the World Championship and the team were looking towards Massa letting Alonso pass him, which he did and Alonso won the Grand Prix. As a result of this decision, Alonso last the championship that year to Sebastian Vettel at the final Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi and the FIA lifted the ban on team orders starting in 2011.
The Williams team have described the Smedley’s role of ‘Head of Vehicle Performance’ as:-
‘a newly created position which will strengthen the trackside team whilst also supporting the development work back at the factory to help bring more performance to the car throughout the season.’
The announcement of his switch from Ferrari to the Williams was not unexpected nor a surprise to us all. There have been many stories linking Smedley to Williams first appearing towards the end of last season after Massa announced last November that he would be racing with the Williams team for this season after departing Ferrari after eight years of service.
However, his linking up with Massa again is in fact a more of a coincidence. Talks between Smedley and Williams began early last summer and a deal was agreed before Ferrari decided to replace Massa with the return of Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari for the 2014 season.
It is expected that Smedley will begin work at Williams in April and “will be supported by Race Engineers Andrew Murdoch, who is engineer to Felipe Massa, and Jonathan Eddolls, who remains with Valtteri Bottas in 2014.”
It would seem that so far Williams are not only enjoying some positive signs on track with their current car the FW36 in pre-season testing but also with the latest developments that have been announced by the team over the past few weeks to the media.
Already at this early stage of the season, the Williams team have already made positive steps to improve on their joint worst season in the sport last year when they finished ninth in the Constructors Championship.
They have managed to secure the services of Massa who will bring much needed experience gained from his time at Ferrari to lead the team this year. The team have switched from Renault power to Mercedes power for this season and the benefit is starting to show potential for them already.
The Williams team have reorganised majorly their technical side of their operations in response to this and have managed to recruit Technical Director Pat Symonds who has a vast range of experience and success within the sport. Last week Williams announced the signing of Felipe Nasr as a Test Driver for 2014 who has impressed the paddock last week at the test in Bahrain by running over 80 laps.
Yesterday saw the Williams team announce that their Development Driver Susie Wolff will be taking part in two Practice Sessions at the British and German Grand Prix this year which is great news for Formula One. And now the news that Williams have managed to secure the services of Smedley will have no doubt strengthened the team even further and we are so glad to see the partnership of him and Massa back together in Formula One.
This year Williams have already it would seem to be shown that they have put all the measure in places in order to make sure that 2014 season will be more competitive than the previous season. They managed to secure the services of some talented and motivated individuals who will no doubt push the team currently to be the best they can be while also be planning for the seasons ahead.
If Williams has put everything together within the team and build on what they currently have achieved, the signs are looking good for them currently and also in the future. Williams just need to make sure that they provide both Massa and Bottas with the tools to be competitive, 2014 may just be a competitive year for the team. And I really do hope that it is as Williams absolutely deserve it. They really do.