Per­for­mance chief Smed­ley lat­est to leave Wil­liams

Autosport (UK) - - PIT + PADDOCK - SCOTT MITCHELL

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.”

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