Massa is a ‘top line driver’

Felipe Massa's consistent form throughout his career proves that he can be considered, and still is, a leading Formula 1 driver.

Rob Smedley, the performance chief at Williams and a long time associate of Massa, first at Ferrari and now at Williams, feels the Brazilian is often written off by the media far too easily.

“I have worked with Felipe for more than 10 years and I think some of you [media] do a really good job in writing him off and have done, and will continue to do so, that he is not a top line driver,” he said.

Massa, almost became a world champion in 2008, when he won the final race of the season in Brazil, only for Lewis Hamilton to pass Timo Glock towards the end of the final lap, securing the Briton the championship by a single point.

Smedley believes he would have won if Ferrari had played their part throughout the season. 

“He is the guy who came within one point of the world championship. He didn’t get there by accident and the team let him down in that case in 2008. I make no bones about it, the team let him down; operationally we were really poor. He would have won the championship by 20 points which in today's money is about 40-50 points. So, that didn’t happen by accident."

At present, Mass is having to deal with a very quick team-mate in the form of Valtteri Bottas. The Finn, in his third season of Formula 1, is currently 5 points ahead of the Brazilian in the drivers standings. Both have secured a podium finish for Williams, with Bottas finishing third in Canada and Massa finishing third in Austria. 

Smedley believes that having two drivers that are pushing each other to the limit only bodes well for the team. 

“They both are evenly matched, both extremely quick, and they are both canny race drivers,” he said. “They know their race track very well and I think it just swings about a little bit because they are so evenly matched."

The Briton feels that not only the drivers, but their respective engineering teams that back them also benefit from the close rivalry. 

“You come to a circuit and Felipe is faster Valtteri and follows that through, and then you might go somewhere a couple of weeks later and it might swing the other way. It is just about their teams working in detail."

“What I am happy about is the way the two teams work together with their drivers now, they are both really pushing. I think we have got really great race engineers and performance engineers teams around both the drivers and that’s been a huge step forward.

“They are working in a way that I am happier and more comfortable with, and that’s bearing fruit. You get one driver in front on one weekend and then the race engineering team of the other car will go away and look at it in great detail, the amount of detail I certainly feel is necessary, and then they come in the next race in front. It is good that they are pushing each other.”