Whilst all the talk this week has been about how Raikkonen and Alonso are going to get along in 2014 at Ferrari there's been little said about that most enduring of relationships in F1 - Rob and Felipe.
Rob Smedley has been Felipe Massa's engineer since the middle of the 2006 season and this year will be their eighth season together. Smedley is one of the most recognizable voices on team radio along with the perennially uptight Guillaume Rocquelin (Vettel ) and the incredibly laid back Andrea Stella (Alonso).
However there is no closer a relationship between driver and engineer than with Smedley and Massa, Rob constantly looking at data and telling Felipe where (and sometimes how) he could go faster.
This instructive nature can be traced back to his roots in other teams. Having come from the Williams touring car team, he moved on to Jordan as a data acquisition engineer, analysing the telemetry coming in. He then moved to a role as track engineer with Jordan before joining the Ferrari test team (principally because he could change things around more at the test team than he would be allowed to with the race team).
Midway through the 2006 season he replaced Gabriele Delii Colli as Massa's race engineer and the Brazilian's race results started to improve. Felipe pushed Michael Schumacher harder and in August 2006 took pole position in Turkey and won the race while looking in his mirrors for most of the closing laps (Michael Schumacher was duelling with Fernando Alonso for second place and had Schumacher got past, Felipe would have been obliged to move over).
In 2007 Massa took a backseat to Kimi Raikkonen, but after the Finn scored a surprise World Championship victory, found that in 2008 he was the quicker Ferrari driver and the one pressing Lewis Hamilton for the World Championship. The year culminated in the most dramatic lap of F1, the title being decided in the last race, on the last lap, at the final corner.
Smedley's been at Felipe Massa's side through thick and thin, and when he suffered his Hungaroring accident it was strange to see him engineering another driver. Smedley/Badoer wasn't a successful combination, but as ever, Rob was defensive of his driver.
Unlike some drivers who keep talk on team radio to a minimum, the Massa/Smedley broadcasts are regular and have had their dramatic and controversial moments - who can forget the radio transmission from the German GP in 2010:
"Okay. So Fernando is faster than you. Do you understand that message?" (after the overtake Smedley added) "Good lad. Just stick with it now, sorry."
Ferrari were fined $100,000 for invoking team orders but both drivers kept their points allowing Fernando Alonso to lead the championship going into the final race in Abu Dhabi. There was controversy too when Hamilton and Massa crashed at the Singapore GP in 2011. Before the incident Smedley had said:
"Hold Hamilton as much as you can, destroy his race as much as we can. C'mon boy."
But there's been lighter moments too. At the 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix Felipe Massa was getting anxious about his visor fogging up in the wet race which was about to be restarted and Smedley came on the radio with:
"Felipe baby, stay cool."
For weeks afterwards everything in the paddock was "Felipe baby". Obviously it helps having a calm individual on the pitwall, especially when dealing with drivers as highly strung as Kimi Raikkonen, but will Kimi get Rob? It's an unliklely pairing, the most talkative of the race engineers with the most terse of the drivers.
Despite Kimi having a go at engineer Mark Slade about talking to him on the radio, the relationship goes back to their time together at McLaren. Raikkonen arranged for Slade's move to Lotus when he came back into F1. "I wanted him in the team" Kimi said about the transfer. " There was of course many things that had to be sorted out so that could happen. I'm glad he managed to get away. I have a good race engineer now as well but I wanted Mark because I know him and he knows what I want."
So will Slade be brought in and the Felipe/Rob relationship continue with the duo moving together over to Lotus or Sauber or even Williams? The combination is a strong one and although Ferrari won't want to lose an experienced engineer such as Smedley, they already have James Allison from Lotus and have just signed Lotus aerodynamicist Dirk de beer, so signing a Lotus engineer would just continue the trend.
Should Rob stay at Maranello then it will be the end of the "bromance" and as happens when long-term relationships end, one partner can end up a lot happier than the other. In this instance it's likely that Massa will miss Rob a lot more. Rubens Barricello has told Felipe that there's life after Ferrari, but is there life after Smedley? In the next twelve months we'll find out.
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