Williams’ Smedley thinks turnaround is in the cards for Felipe Massa

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Felipe Massa’s first season at Williams has not gone all that well, but his long-time engineer, Rob Smedley, believes that the recent test in Barcelona following the Spanish Grand Prix will help the Brazilian veteran catch up with teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Bottas sits seventh in the Driver’s Championship as one of a handful of drivers that have scored points in all five Grand Prix so far.

But Massa is a middling 12th on the strength of two seventh-place finishes, and will try to avoid a third straight finish outside of the points in this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.

However, Smedley, now Williams’ Head of Vehicle Performance, thinks that improvements borne from the Barcelona test are set to work in their favor.

“My approach is to always go through and look at every single detail even if that wastes a little bit of time going down certain avenues,” Smedley said to British F1 broadcaster Sky Sports.

“So we have come up with some very, very good analysis in a very short space of time. Luckily, there was the test after the race in Barcelona so we were able to test some things could there, which worked.

“That just gives us all a great deal of confidence in our analysis methods and then going to test those methods in the track, it gives Felipe confidence that ‘I had a problem in the last two races, the guys have got stuck in and they’ve come out with a bunch of things, we’ve tested that all in Spain and it’s all worked’.”

Massa’s Monaco weekend last year for Ferrari was a disaster, as he crashed in Saturday practice at the Sainte-Devote corner and then wrecked there again during the race. Surely, he’s hoping for much better in his first run at Monte Carlo for Williams.

Fernando Alonso likes NASCAR country, but he’s not leaving F1 any time soon

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jimmie Johnson strolled into the Charlotte Convention Center and did a double-take when he saw Fernando Alonso hanging out in a hallway.

“What’s he doing here?” NASCAR’s seven-time champion wondered.

Alonso made the trip to North Carolina to make an appearance at NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. No, a ride in NASCAR is not imminent, but the two-time Formula One champion is about to embark on his first major sports car race .

Alonso will race this weekend in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for United Autosports, the sports car team owned by his McLaren F1 boss, Zak Brown. It was Brown who paved the way for Alonso to compete in last year’s Indianapolis 500, and he is helping the Spaniard knock prestigious races off his wish list.

Alonso spent about 10 minutes chatting with Johnson, and the duo was eventually joined by sports car aces Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who were brought to the NASCAR event by IMSA to help promote the Rolex, and then Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The meet-and-greet with Alonso was a thrill for Johnson. Alonso was equally impressed.

“The first time I heard his name it was probably 2003 on the NASCAR video game,” Alonso said Tuesday. “I used to choose him, not knowing him, just because of the car. I remember playing with another friend of mine, he likes a chocolate company I will not name now, and he was choosing that car and I was choosing Jimmie’s car.

“But that was the first time I heard of him, and obviously the success that he has in the years in motor racing, he became a legend of our sport, and massive respect.”

Johnson said he’s always been a fan of Alonso’s and spent some time telling Alonso how well he ran in the Indianapolis 500 last May. Alonso led 27 laps and seemed to be in contention for the win until his engine expired 21 laps from the finish.

“He handled himself so well, really did a great job, and I think brought a lot to the table,” Johnson said. “He brought worldwide attention to motorsports and it was really good for us here stateside.”

While in NASCAR country, Alonso was asked about potentially trying a stock car someday. It’s not something that could happen soon, he said, but it is something he’d like to at least attempt.

“Right now, it looks quite far. The driving technique and the experience all those guys have, it’s difficult for me to achieve that level,” Alonso said. “I will never know until I try, so I would like one day to test a car and after that, driving the car, I will know how enjoyable it will be in racing.

“Outside (watching), the races are great because they are all in a group, it is not predictable at all and until the last lap, you don’t know what is going to happen. We love watching from the outside, but I don’t know from the inside.”

Alonso has so far only had three days of testing at Daytona in the sports car to adjust to a closed cockpit, as well as driving at night and in traffic. Trying different series has been a thrill for him, and he’s still eyeing a way to get Le Mans on his schedule.

“It’s one thing that I would like to do, I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and Le Mans and is one of the top races,” he said. “If that day will be this year or not is still to be discussed, but maybe yes.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/