Rob Smedley, best known for his role as Felipe Massa’s race engineer, is a member of the Ferrari Formula One team. He has been with them since 2004, when he became an engineer in their test team. Over the years his relationship with Massa has become a popular one – the apparent friendship between the two clearly more than just a race engineer and driver. Smedley has guided Massa tactfully through races – with some times more difficult than others – and some of his radio messages have become favourites of fans (see below)! This week’s Scrutineering takes a brief look at Rob Smedley’s career and what it is that the fans like or think about him!
Pre Ferrari (1997 – 2003)
After graduating with a degree in mathematics and mechanical engineering, and a masters, Rob Smedley started working with Peugeot, as a chassis engineer for their British Touring Car team. He remained in this role until 1998, before moving to the Williams British Touring Car test team for 1999. His first single seater experience was as a track engineer in Formula 3000 before making the move to Formula One in 2001. He worked for the Jordan F1 team as a data acquisition engineer before becoming a track engineer for them. At the end of 2003 he moved to Ferrari, where he has remained ever since.
Ferrari (2004 – present)
Smedley initially joined Ferrari as part of their test team, where he was able to have a much more technical input than he necessarily would as part of the race team. He remained in this role until the middle of 2006 when he became Felipe Massa’s race engineer. Massa had been working with Rubens Barrichello’s former race engineer Gabriele Delli Colli, but this relationship did not work out. After Smedley was appointed as Massa’s race engineer, the Brazilian’s performance improved and he went on to take his first pole position and win, at the Turkish GP. Since then they have enjoyed fourteen more pole positions and ten more wins together. After Massa’s crash during qualifying for the Hungarian GP in 2009, which saw him sit out the rest of the season, Smedley was the race engineer for Luca Badoer and Giancarlo Fisichella, who stood in for the Brazilian driver. Smedley has also been involved in high profile situations such as the 2010 German GP when he was forced to ask Massa to allow Fernando Alonso, his team-mate and a championship contender – past, meaning Massa lost out on a race win. At that time team orders were banned, and while Smedley’s message was not explicit, the “Fernando is faster than you” message has been remembered ever since.
What the fans say and like!
- One fan says “Rob is a great role model for young engineers”
- “Felipe baby – stay cool” – at the 2009 Malaysian GP when Felipe was looking for a white visor because he could not see, this was Rob’s classic response!
- His relationship with Felipe – one of the most prominent driver-race engineer relationships in the paddock
- He is a British man who has made it to high places in Ferrari at a young age
- The way he tells Felipe how to drive sometimes
- Another fan says “he has nice hair”
- He does good work for charity
- In a BBC feature in 2010 Rob said “I like him because we are similar” – they are a good match!
- Felipe has tweeted pictures of Rob’s socks – I like them (one fan says)
- When he swore at Felipe at the Belgian GP in 2011 – accidentally caught on camera but good to see him being passionate