Performance chief Smedley latest to leave Williams
Williams performance chief Rob Smedley will leave the team at the end of the 2018 season, ending a relationship that first began 20 years ago in touring cars.
Smedley joined Williams from Ferrari in 2014 as head of performance engineering as the team sought to bounce back from a tough 2013 campaign. It marked a return to the organisation that hired him in 1998 to work as an engineer on the Williams-run British Touring Car Championship Renault Laguna project.
In F1, Smedley helped guide Williams to back-to-back third-place finishes in the constructors’ championship, then fifth place in 2016 and ’17. He said he has not decided on what he will do next, while Williams has no immediate replacement as it is thought to still be evaluating changes behind the scenes in response to its tough 2018 season.
In between his Williams stints, Smedley worked for Stewart GP, Jordan and then Ferrari, where he was an engineer on its test team before becoming race engineer. He forged a close relationship with Felipe Massa at Ferrari and followed the Brazilian to Williams, albeit after the 2014 season began – Smedley had to wait until just before the third round in Bahrain to start working with the team.
Smedley joined as part of an overhaul of the Williams engineering department, initially in charge of the pitwall on race weekends and as the senior trackside engineer under then-chief technical officer Pat Symonds. He then moved into a broader role looking beyond race-weekend performance.
His departure from a role created specifically for him gives Williams further opportunity to re-evaluate its structure as it seeks to bounce back from a season in which it is set to finish last of the 10 teams and has also lost Dirk de Beer (head of aerodynamics) and Ed Wood (chief designer).
AUDACIOUS RUSSELL TRIED FOR 2018 SEAT
Williams has signed Formula 2 title favourite George Russell as part of its bid to move up the order next season, but team chiefs are aware that a much better car needs to be produced to allow the Mercedes-backed Briton to make an impact.
It has been revealed by chief technical officer Paddy Lowe that Russell, who has joined on a multi-year deal, initially bid to land a Williams race seat for 2018 as reigning GP3 champion. “He came to me a year ago with a Powerpoint presentation with why he was going to be our best driver,” said Lowe. “I’ve never received one of those before.”