Now, I like Rob Smedley. He’s a direct Northerner (a fellow direct Northerner!) and he says what he thinks. When he’s asked a question, you know that he’s going to answer it and not try and deploy media mind-tricks to skirt around the issue before the person to whom he’s replying is so bamboozled they’re not sure whether their question has indeed been answered, or even what it was they asked.
So when he’s asked about the plight of one of his former teams – Williams – who have just endured the worst season in the history of terrible seasons, you know that the answer isn’t going to be pretty. And, being Rob Smedley, it’s more than likely to be newsworthy. Amongst the Formula 1 press at least.
Part of me thinks that, being Head of Vehicle Performance at the time of Williams’ second worst ever season, a season during which the disastrous FW42 – the car at least in part responsible for Williams’ current situation – was being developed and constructed sort of excludes you from the privilege of objectively criticising the team as if you were an onlooker.
You know, it’s okay to joke about food poisoning, unless you’re the chef.
But Rob clearly apportions the blame for Williams’ maladies elsewhere in the business, so far removed from his remit that he’s able to distance himself from the whole thing.
“To see the decline there, it’s heartbreaking really as a Formula 1 fan.” Smedley told Reuters.
“The old fashioned notion of ‘we’re a racing team and we only exist to race’ isn’t enough anymore.”
“You can be vehemently independent but you need a budget to be able to do it.”
“Anyone who thinks that you can turn things around from where Williams are now to suddenly arrive back in the top five of the championship, they are very much mistaken. It is just incorrect.”
“We talk about how it can’t get much worse than 2019, but we said that about 2018. And we said that about 2017. The reality is that 2020 can actually be worse than 2019.”
What is slightly worrying about Smedley’s comments is that he clearly feels the issues that have led Williams to this position, including that of budget (amongst other things) haven’t gone away.
And as a former insider & senior member of the team, he’s likely to know.
Of course, talk of a crisis at Williams could be put to bed within about twenty minutes of the FW43 hitting the Circuit de Catalunya on February 19th.