Head of Vehicle Performance 2014-2018

Rob Smedley

Middlesbrough born Smedley arrived at Williams from Ferrari in 2014 to continue his long-term partnership with Brazilian driver Felipe Massa who joined at the same time. When Massa left Williams at the end of 2017, Smedley stuck around for another season before announcing he'd be leaving at the end of 2018 to spend more time with his family. Two months after leaving Williams he'd had his fill of his family and was back in Formula 1, working under Ross Brawn's stewardship as technical consultant with F1's organising body.

Born and bred in Normanby, Middlesbrough (another Northerner – Hooray!), Smedley gained a degree in Maths and Mechanical Engineering at Loughborough University in preparation for a career in motorpsort.

Specialising in chassis engineering, Smedley’s first role in racing car design was in 1997 with Pilbeam Racing Designs – a Lincolnshire based racing car constructor that, at the time of Smedley’s employ, was involved in building touring cars.

He left Pilbeam a year later but remained in BTCC where he enjoyed his first involvement with Williams – working in their touring car squad as engineer in their test team.

Experience of single-seater racing followed, as Smedley moved to Formula 3000 (Later GP2 and currently F2), before joining the Jordan Formula 1 team in 2001 as data acquisition engineer where he was responsible for overseeing the gathering of telemetry that the race engineer would feed back to the driver to analyse where performance gains could be found.

He remained at Jordan for a further two years, before moving to Ferrari’s test team in late 2003, where he first met the driver with whom he’d become synonymous – Brazilian Felipe Massa – recently appointed Ferrari’s test driver for 2003.

Massa was promoted to full-time Ferrari driver in 2006 partnering Michael Schumacher, and after a stuttering start, Smedley was asked to replace then race-engineer Gabriele Delli Colli mid-season and almost immediately Massa’s form picked up and his all-too frequent tendency to spin was gone – many people attributing this improvement to his relationship with Smedley and the Teessider’s calming effect on his driver.

The Brazilian would go on to win two GPs before the close of the season, and he and Smedley’s relationship was rekindled for 2007 where they’d see Massa’s team-mate Raikkonen take the drivers championship, ahead of his own title tilt in 2008, where he narrowly missed out to Lewis Hamilton 100m from the end of the season finale in Brazil.

A freak accident at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2009 prematurely ended Massa’s 2009 through injury, and Smedley would find himself race-engineering stand in drivers Fisichella –  and the hapless Badoer.

Massa returned to Ferrari for 2010, but now in a supporting role to Ferrari new recruit Fernando Alonso.

An incident in the German Grand Prix of 2010 would be defining moment of Smedley’s career, as Ferrari – wishing to engineer a win for the then-second place Alonso at the expense of the then race-leader Massa, Smedley would deliver the message “OK, so, Fernando is faster than you. Can you confirm you understood that message? Sorry mate”, which would become so infamous that it has been printed on t-shirts.

Smedley & his driver remained at Ferrari for another three years before it was announced they’d be leaving the team at the end of 2013, to be replaced by Kimi Raikkonen.

At the season’s close, it was revealed that Massa would be heading to Williams, and shortly afterwards it was confirmed that Smedley would go with him again playing the part of race engineer.

In Massa’s first season with Williams, the duo engineered a handful of podiums with a strong Mercedes-powered FW36, before a brace of podiums helped the Brazilian to 6th place in the WDC a year later – his best since 2011.

Two lean seasons followed, before Massa headed out of Williams, leaving Smedley without his partner for the first time in over a decade.

A tough 2018 (for everyone at Williams) prompted Smedley to revaluate his options, ultimately deciding that his future lay elsewhere, and he announced he’d be leaving the team after the last race of the season in Brazil.

Ahead of the 2019 Formula 1 season it was announced that Smedley would become technical consultant to the F1 organisation.

Categories: Team


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