Rob Smedley: “Small Mistakes can Hurt you Badly at Monaco”


The Williams team have won three times around the streets of Monaco; in 1980 with Carlos Reutemann, 1983 with Keke Rosberg, and 2003 with Juan Pablo Montoya. They go into his year’s race on the back of another points finish in Spain two weekends ago where Valtteri Bottas finished an excellent fifth. Team-mate Felipe Massa finished outside the points, but pace was there.

The Head of Performance Engineering of Williams F1 Rob Smedley has lots of experience when it comes to Monaco, having been Massa’s race engineer at Ferrari for many years. He understands how disastrous a small mistake can be around the street circuit.

“Clearly Monaco is very different to where we have been so far this season,” said Smedley. “The race engineer plays a key part of the race weekend as they have to think a little outside the box and work differently in terms of car specification. This has taken up a lot of time preparing in the simulator. It’s a race of attrition and small mistakes can hurt you badly.

“The whole team are flat out all weekend, ensuring all the finer details are covered and the approach is correct, if this all goes well then we should be able to get some good points. It’s a very special place, Monaco; it’s the last of its kind.”

For Massa, the 2013 race weekend was one to forget. A free practice crash on Saturday morning going into Ste Devote saw him miss qualifying and start from the back, only for his suspension to fail into the same corner during the race that saw him crash again. He still believes it’s a special track, and knows to get a good lap you have to use every millimetre of the track.

“The track is amazing and steeped in history,” said Massa. “We will need good stability for the circuit as it’s so tight and traction is more important than top speed. The slow corners are very slow, but the track demands a lot of focus. The barriers are close, and it takes time getting use to driving right up against them, sometimes you can even touch them and still do a good lap. Monaco is a special place, there are no tracks like it on the calendar and that makes us enjoy it even more.”

Team-mate Bottas made his first ever start in Monaco in 2013, starting fourteenth and finishing twelfth. He understands the importance of a good qualifying session with overtaking extremely difficult around the tight and twisty Monaco track.

“Qualifying in Monaco is the most important of the season as the design of the circuit makes it very hard to overtake in the race,” said Bottas. “Strategy is also important in the race as you want to make sure that no time or positions are lost during the pit stop, it will be hard to make those positions up. There is no room for mistakes in Monaco, as the barriers will punish you. I am really confident driving there now that I have experience and so am looking forward to the race.”