Williams’ Rob Smedley: “The virtual safety car put us at a disadvantage”

Felipe Massa - Credit: Andrew Ferraro/Williams

Rob Smedley felt his tea were out of luck during the United States Grand Prix, with Valtteri Bottas compromised early following a clash with Nico Hülkenberg, and Felipe Massa lost track position due to the ill-timing of the virtual safety car.

The Head of Performance Engineering at Williams Martini Racing was happy that the team managed to reduce the gap to the Sahara Force India Formula 1 Team by two points at the Circuit of the Americas, but it could and should have been more.

Massa was on course for a top five finish before the virtual safety car was deployed to recover Max Verstappen’s stranded Red Bull Racing machine from the side of the track, meaning Carlos Sainz Jr effectively got a free pit stop and jumped the Brazilian, who then found himself under attack from Fernando Alonso.

“The key factor today was that Valtteri was out of the race effectively from the first corner after having to limp back to the pits with a puncture after an incident with Hülkenberg,” said Smedley.

“After that, we just tried to concentrate on Felipe. He had got himself into a good position and we created a decent gap to Sainz in the first stint. We then had a good pitstop and strategy, and kept a good gap to Sainz on the option tyre, so we were in control of our race.

“However, the virtual safety car caused by Verstappen put us at a disadvantage and allowed Sainz to get ahead. We were then just waiting for his tyres to degrade when Alonso caught up, and collided with Felipe as he tried to get through.

“The car could have secured fifth today but circumstances went against us. However, we will be back in seven days’ time and will continue to close the gap to Force India in the championship.”