Williams' new head of vehicle performance, Rob Smedley, says that he is confident that the team can continue its solid start to the 2014 F1 season at next weekend's Monaco Grand Prix.
The latest shake-up of the sport's rulebook has seen Williams transformed from near-pointless also-ran in 2013 to a top ten regular this season, with Felipe Massa and the omni-present Valtteri Bottas adding to its total at every round. The Grove-based operation currently lies fifth overall – ahead of McLaren – after five races, and Smedley was sufficiently encouraged by the development introduced in Barcelona to suggest that the FW36 can again be a threat for points in Monte Carlo.
“Our cup is half full,” he insisted after Bottas added another ten points from the Circuit de Catalunya, “Well, its more than half full, its three-quarters full as we came here waiting to see how much the upgrades would work and, ultimately, they've been very successful. It's a downforce track, very difficult on the tyres, and I think you saw that the car worked very well. It was third quickest so, ultimately, we're very, very pleased with that.”
Perhaps surprisingly, Williams has only triumphed in the Principality on three occasions – and not since Juan Pablo Montoya in 2003 – and, while Smedley is not predicting that either Bottas or Massa will upset the Mercedes juggernaut this time around, he is optimistic that one or both will continue the team's 100 per cent scoring run. He insists however that the performance should be taken in context, rather than measured against the current power.
“I think, based on the result [in Barcelona], I'm slightly more optimistic than I was,” he said, “I think we've come here with all the new package on the car and that's generated downforce, it's gone well. [Monaco]'s a rear-limited circuit, so we will wear out the rear tyres and that will be what stops us [making progress] in the race, so it's just a case of making our rears go longer than anybody else.
“It's a strange race, with lots of quirks to it, one where you don't have to have the fastest car to win – although, with the speed or the fastest car this year, it will be difficult to beat it! Let's say that I am reasonably confident that we can have a good result. But it's about where Williams is at the minute, about getting points. We're getting points, getting decent points, although we seem to have flat-lined at the moment at ten points per race. But that's good - if we keep doing that from every race from now to the end of the season, its almost 200 points. I'm reasonably happy, but we have to keep progressing as we are.”
Smedley is particularly happy to see the work being done at Grove translating into gains on the track.
“Every single bit we bring to the track, we get onto the car, and …. that's been the same from the start of the season,” he noted, “We bring it, we do our due diligence and go through our full testing process on a Friday afternoon - and Saturday morning if need be - but the nature of the beast at the minute is that the correlation from here to the wind tunnel is very impressive and the car is improving from race to race. That, for me, and compared to my experience, is very, very impressive.”