Smedley: Williams has relearned how to be successful

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Williams head of vehicle development Rob Smedley has said that the team has learned how to be successful once again following a difficult few years.

The British team has made a sensational start to the season, ranking fourth in the constructors’ and entering battle with the likes of Ferrari and Red Bull. Such form was unthinkable twelve months ago, at which time the team had just one point to its name.

Smedley even went as far to suggest that the team could challenge Mercedes for victory at the next two races in Belgium and Italy thanks to the high-speed nature of the circuits.

“It’s a possibility,” he said when asked about Williams’ chances of winning one of the next two races.

“As I’ve quite often said, the ambition of the team is to win the world championship, and in order to win the world championship you have to beat everybody. I think we know that the world championship is a little bit one-sided this year, but that doesn’t stop us preparing ourselves for the years to come.

“Running at the front and winning races is something that this team needs to relearn how to do. You saw that once we relearned how to be slick enough to get podiums they kept falling out of the jackpot machine at us.”

Williams has indeed been one of the most impressive teams over the past few races, scoring three podium finishes in the past four grands prix and locking out the front row at the Austrian Grand Prix in June. Now, the focus will be on continuing this at Spa and Monza.

“I’m reasonably confident that our car can go well in both of those races,” Smedley said. “But I’ve said before that we don’t fear anywhere really.”

Hartley says debut F1 point would be ‘a dream’ from last on grid

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Brendon Hartley says scoring a point on his Formula 1 debut would be “a dream” after being resigned to last place on the grid for the United States Grand Prix following an engine penalty.

Porsche factory driver Hartley was drafted in by Toro Rosso to replace Pierre Gasly for the USGP when the Frenchman was ruled out due to clashing commitments in Super Formula.

Despite having not driven an F1 car since 2012, Hartley came within one-tenth of a second of making it through to Q2 on Saturday at the Circuit of The Americas, ultimately qualifying 18th.

“Obviously I’d love to be quicker but we knew we were starting at the back, so we put a lot of focus on long runs, getting the peak performance out of this Pirelli tire I didn’t get today,” Hartley told NBCSN after the race.

“In FP3 I had a good feeling. There’s a lot of quirky things to manage with these tires. Honestly I should be happy with how the weekend’s gone so far.”

The New Zealander will start last due to a 25-place grid penalty for changes made to his power unit ahead of practice on Friday, and is daring to dream of making the top 10 in his first race out of a sports car for more than five years.

“I don’t do the 24 hours completely alone!” Hartley joked. “It’s quick. It’s physical to drive. I’ll be happy to be done after an hour and a half.

“A point would be a dream starting from the back. If I can move forward and put a race together, I’ll be happy.”

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 2pm ET on Sunday.