Rob Smedley will start work for the Williams Formula 1 team at this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
Smedley, who worked as Felipe Massa’s race engineer at Ferrari from 2006-’13, has taken up the role of head of vehicle performance at Williams and is traveling to Bahrain this week after officially starting his new role on Monday.
He will be running the pit wall on race weekends and will be the senior engineer at the track working under chief technical officer Pat Symonds. That role has been filled by chief test and support engineer Rod Nelson so far this season.
“He’ll be track and I will be factory and testing,” said Nelson of their job roles. “I’ll do the tests through the season and go to the races that precede those just to get up to speed with where the race team is with the car. We will have quite a bit of interplay between us through a race weekend as I’ll be running the control room at Williams and he will run the pit wall.”
The interaction between factory and race team has been a weakness at Williams at times in recent seasons and this structure, put in place by Symonds, should allow the team to continue on its upward curve.
“When you are racing, you need good communication with the factory because you are after quick turnarounds,” said Nelson. “If you have a problem on Friday, you want it solved on Friday but that’s always an issue, keeping lines open all the time.”
Massa believes that Smedley is a key recruitment and will bring new ideas to the team. The Brazilian’s relationship with Smedley was one of the longest and most celebrated between race engineer and driver in F1.
“He’s going to bring a lot of experience to the team and he’s going to bring a lot of good ideas for race team organization,” said Massa. “There’s a lot going on in the team, a lot of improvements, a lot of things that are going in a good direction. But there is still a lot to do and I am sure he will be an important key as well.”
Smedley first worked as Felipe Massa’s race engineer at the 2006 European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring. He replaced Gabriele delli Colli in the role because Massa had a difficult relationship with his original race engineer at Ferrari.
Massa claimed his first podium in F1 in that race and was engineered by Smedley for 135 races, 11 of which were wins.