Felipe Massa’s long-time engineer reveals ‘compelling’ case behind 2008 legal battle

Sam Cooper
Felipe Massa and Rob Smedley

Rob Smedley became known for his role as Felipe Massa's race engineer.

Felipe Massa’s long-time engineer Rob Smedley says the Brazilian is “compelling” in his argument about the 2008 championship, but admitted he was happy to let the past be the past.

Smedley was alongside Massa from 2006 to 2017 both at Ferrari and Williams and built up one of the best known driver-engineer relationships in F1 history.

Massa is back in the news these days as he seeks to overturn the 2008 championship, a season in which Smedley was guiding the Brazilian.

Rob Smedley weighs in on Felipe Massa legal case

Massa has begun legal proceedings against F1 and the FIA following comments from former chief Bernie Ecclestone that the organisation was aware before the season was over of Nelson Piquet Jr’s’ deliberate crash in Singapore, something they had previously suggested they only knew about in the following years.

The Brazilian began his case late last year and it continues to rumble on in the background but Smedley said Massa was “compelling” in his argument.

“What I will start by saying is that for me, I’ve always been a person that whatever happened yesterday, whether it was good or bad, I get up, dust myself off and move on,” he told The Race podcast. “It just kind of feeds into ancient history very, very quickly for me.

“So for me, more pots and pans, more medals or whatever you want to call it, is fairly meaningless for me. I’m interested in what’s happening today, tomorrow and after that, but that’s my personal opinion on it.

“What I will say is that this is something that Felipe feels strongly about. It’s no secret that Felipe is a really good pal of mine, he’s like a little brother to me and if this is something that he feels strongly about, and passionately about, and when he talks about it, he’s very compelling and he’s very convincing in the fact that he’s doing this for what he feels is justice.

“Everybody has a personal right to pursue whatever they feel is just, and that’s the case with Felipe here.”

Smedley did also say he kept a close eye on the case but had “no idea” what will come from it.

“I think there’s lots of different parties involved,” he continued. “We’re starting to kind of look back at the past, where will this end up? I’ve got no idea. I keep a watching brief on it. That’s kind of all I do and all I can do, all I want to do and all them things.

“So it’s of interest because if it does get flipped, what does that open up with sporting decisions, not only in Formula 1, but in the past and that’s not to say that’s right or wrong.

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“I’m not trying to fall on any side of the fence here, it’s just a really interesting element of all of this. That if there is a decision that favours what Felipe is going after this, that will then be very interesting for how sport deals with past unjust decisions.”

As for the incident which caused it all, Piquet’s crash during lap 14, Smedley said even he would not have hit the wall on that section of track.

“How you crash there, I’ve got no idea. Right? I wouldn’t crash there and I don’t go over 30 miles an hour. So I’ve got no idea how young Nelson crashed there.

“I watched it live thinking [it was] strange and then you watch the replay and by the third replay, you’re like ‘okay, I understand what’s happened. Now, this is fairly simple to work out.’

“It was obvious straight after what had happened then what are the ramifications and the repercussions and how you get justice and all the rest of it. I don’t think there was anybody with any element of doubt within my close circle, within Ferrari, within the guys that were talked to in the paddock afterwards.”

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