Find out more about our subscriptions

Smedley: Massa boosted by Williams F1 team atmosphere

Felipe Massa is able to perform better than he has for years because the atmosphere at Williams is helping him, reckons Rob Smedley.

The Brazilian claimed his first pole position since 2008 at the Austrian Grand Prix as Williams emerged as the main threat to the dominant Mercedes team.

And having recaptured the kind of form that had been missing in recent years at Ferrari, Smedley is convinced that it is the way the team works with Massa that is having a huge impact.

Smedley, who is Williams' head of vehicle performance, said: "He is slightly more comfortable in himself, comfortable in his surroundings and what that brings out is a more relaxed approach to how he drives.

"Certainly you see him make much fewer mistakes than the last few years. I am sure he feels less pressure.

"There is a great deal of pressure in a team like Ferrari and for a team like Williams there is less.

"That is something that he needed: to get his head above water, and catch his breath. I am massively impressed at the minute."

Smedley also thinks that having escaped the constant pressure that Fernando Alonso puts on his team-mates has been a boost to Massa.

"Fernando is an incredible competitor, really one of the very best drivers of all time I would say," he said.

"Having Fernando Alonso as a team-mate is never easy, as Kimi [Raikkonen] is finding out now, and we all know Kimi is an incredible driver.

"But Fernando just delivers: and it is not weekend in, weekend out, it is session in, session out.

"The guy hardly ever puts a foot wrong and that puts you under pressure because it is normal when you have got to battle against somebody who is so very good that you do feel pressure.

"Here [at Williams] we do have a more equal pairing between the drivers and that has helped Felipe to relax a little bit and relax into his role."

  More news  
Read the AUTOSPORT Digital Edition
Visit the shop
See highlights from 60 years of AUTOSPORT
Paddock insight from group F1 editor Jonathan Noble
Grand Prix news updates from F1 editor Edd Straw
Breaking news feed
Live commentary feed