Rob Smedley believes the Felipe Massa of 2015 is the 'best we've seen' following his solid start to the Formula 1 season with Williams.

Though Massa is yet to stand on the podium this season, the Brazilian has made the best of a package that is seemingly down on competitiveness compared with Mercedes and Ferrari, finishing fourth in Australia, sixth in Malaysia and fifth in China.

Indeed, it is Massa's latter performance at the Shanghai International Circuit that drew particular praise from chief race engineer Smedley, praising him for qualifying fourth having missed a practice session and finished comfortably ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

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"I think he had a bloody good weekend to be honest. He was right on it. I've worked with him for many years and I'm still seeing him develop. It's good to see that a lad with ten-plus years of experience of driving an F1 car is still able to develop and get better and better.

"I think one of the biggest changes I've seen in Felipe over the last couple of years is not only where he's got his head to - he's very comfortable with himself and his surroundings now - but I think, technically, how he's managing the tyres is really, really impressive. He knows what to do with the tyres, he knows what corrective action to take and he knows how to get them working in qualifying and how to make them last in the race - as good as any car will allow him to do.

One of the most experienced drivers on the F1 grid having made his debut in 2002, Smedley's lavishing praise went further, claiming he is driving as well as he did in 2008 when he finished runner-up to Lewis Hamilton in the Ferrari.

"What we're seeing at the minute is definitely the best Felipe Massa that we've seen - definitely as good as 2008."

Heading into the Bahrain Grand Prix, Massa is currently fourth in the standings with 30 points.