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Smedley: We can't be scared to look forward

Williams needs to keep all of its development plates spinning in a bid to close the gap on Red Bull and Ferrari ahead of the 'great opportunity' presented by 2017, insists Rob Smedley.
Williams' head of vehicle performance, Rob Smedley, says the teams needs to seize the opportunity presented by next year's changes to the F1 regulations, and build on a strong end to 2016 to target the teams ahead of it in the pecking order.

After two years of resurgence saw it finish third in the constructors' standings, Williams currently occupies fourth in the 2016 table, having seen Red Bull's own comeback campaign lift it into the top three after eight rounds, but Smedley says the Grove outfit should have its rival - and second-placed Ferrari - in its sights over the second half of the season, with a view to taking advantage of the new regulations and closing the gap still further in 2017.

The third-year partnership of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa has so far generated 90 points from eight races, with the Finn finally cracking the top three in Canada. Bottas can also add a fourth from Russia and fifth from Spain to his contribution, while Massa backs him up with a brace of top five finishes from Melbourne and Sochi. With quicker tracks on the agenda in the next few weeks, Smedley hopes that they can be the springboard to even better results between now and November.

"I think [the season so far] been reasonable, but I would definitely hope to have a better second half," he said, "We are solidly in fourth at the minute and I think we can push on and retain that, but what I think is more important is that we try to look forward.

"Certainly, in Saturday trim and quite a lot in the races as well, we have good pace on Ferrari and Red Bull, and I think they have to be the two targets. We have to look forward as a team and not be scared. I think that we have to raise our game a little bit and, possibly, raise the expectations and ambitions and keep heading forward, keep looking forward and trying to hunt down Red Bull, who are the team immediately in front of us, and, when we can, get in front of Ferrari. We should aim to do that - and make it stick."

Despite the FW38 struggling in Monaco like its recent predecessors, Smedley insists that there isn't one area that the team needs to focus on over the remaining 13 races, claiming that it would be an error not to keep addressing the whole Mercedes-powered package.

"There's no one particular weakness," he stressed, "It's the perennial mistake that is made in F1 - 'let's concentrate on this one particular area' - but, unless there is a glaring mistake that you've got in front of you, you can't. If you are slightly weaker in one area than another, it doesn't mean you should put more weight in that area because you have to keep all of the plates spinning and keep pushing forward in all areas because you have to keep finding performance on the car, whether that's via the mechanical car, via the aerodynamics, via the tyre technology... We've got to keep pushing forward with operations, with every single part of the company."

Asked whether he expected Williams to be able to keep pace with the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull when it comes to the cost of developing new cars for 2017, Smedley suggested that it wasn't a case of 'if', more of 'must' as the opportunity presented by a clean sheet of paper gave the smaller outfits a chance to close the gap.

"I think we have to be able to do that, otherwise you join the second tier of F1," he pointed out, "We have to be up for that. I think F1 now, the way we develop the cars with the aerodynamic testing restriction, is much more favourable for someone who is resource-restricted, but there's a lot of strengths at Williams and we've got to continue to exploit those strengths as well as trying to grow the weaker areas.

"[The] 2017 [rules] offer us a great opportunity to close back up to the frontrunners and we definitely have to exploit that opportunity to the maximum. The objective and the target of the company is to do that, the objective is that the team moves forward, not stays where it is."

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
12.06.2016 - Race, 3rd position Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams FW38
Felipe Massa (BRA) Williams FW38
14.04.2016 - Rob Smedley (GBR) Williams Head of Vehicle Performance
Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB12 leads Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams FW38. 23.02.2016.
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