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.