Smedley: Massa has more freedom at Williams

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Williams’ head of vehicle development Rob Smedley has explained how Felipe Massa is feeling more relaxed and has more freedom at the British team than he enjoyed at Ferrari.

Smedley worked as Massa’s race engineer at Ferrari from 2006 until the end of last season, when the team opted to replace the Brazilian driver with Kimi Raikkonen. However, he found refuge at Williams, and Smedley followed suit ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix after being placed on gardening leave by the Italian team.

The two have forged a great friendship over the years, with Smedley treating him like a little brother, and the Briton thinks that the move away from Ferrari has given Massa a new-found freedom.

“He’s a very, very good driver and he’s been given the freedom of head space here to do what he’s paid to do, and he’s delivering,” Smedley explained to Autosport.

“I see Felipe now very relaxed, incredibly experienced, there’s a maturity about him and he carries that very well.”

For the first time in his career, Massa can be considered as the ‘team leader’ after spending his Ferrari years in the shadow of Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso.

“He understands that the job he has to do here is not just about driving the car, it’s about driving the people as well,” Smedley said.

“He knows how to do that. He’s had some very good teachers in that area – I would cite Michael Schumacher as one – and now his time has come. He’s picked up the baton very well.”

However, Massa is by no means having it all his own way at Williams. Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas is certainly holding his own, scoring 24 points so far this season.

It all marks a drastic turnaround in fortunes for the British team which scored just 5 points in the entirety of 2013.

Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”