Former Ferrari engineer Rob Smedley has backed his old employers to come out on top in their fight against McLaren this season.
Only 3.5 points separate the two teams heading into the final five races of the year, and the Scuderia have made significant progress to seemingly overtake their rivals in terms of raw pace in recent races.
The difference between P3 and P4 in the Constructors’ Championship is worth millions in prize money for the teams, making it vital for the two old sparring partners as they battle for supremacy.
Even though they’re not slugging it out to win the Drivers’ or Constructors’ standings, as had been the case in Smedley’s days on the Ferrari pit wall, he is still thoroughly enjoying this particular sub-plot in the 2021 season.
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) November 2, 2021
“It’s brilliant, isn’t it?” Smedley said on the F1 Nation podcast. “I think this is why it’s such a golden season of Formula 1, because not only have you got something out front for P1, you tack back just to the next row on the grid and there’s this absolutely mega battle between two giants of the sport.
“Four absolutely outstanding drivers, all in this battle for P3 – it’s brilliant. I think if you look at what Ferrari have done, I’m bound to say this, but I’m always really happy to see Ferrari making good on their in-roads to recovery.
“What they’ve done over the middle to the latter part of the season has been really, really impressive.
“But again, that one ebbs and flows, doesn’t it? You only have to look back to Monza, it wasn’t that long ago when Daniel won that race quite convincingly, with Lando not far behind.”
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto spoke recently about his quiet confidence that his team will be able to out-perform McLaren in Mexico, with Charles Leclerc having comfortably out-performed Daniel Ricciardo one place behind him in Austin.
Smedley, formerly Felipe Massa’s race engineer with the team, has echoed Binotto’s opinion, adding that they are currently in the “hot seat” to leapfrog McLaren come the end of the season.
“I think, right now, I would back Ferrari to do it,” he said. “I think that they’ve got a little bit of an advantage and, if you look at the trajectory of their development and how they’re adding performance to that car, I think that they are probably in the hot seat.
“It’s probably theirs to drop right now, more than it is for McLaren. But you can’t write McLaren off, because the turnaround that they’ve done since 2018 under its new management has been incredible.”
Ferrari hot on McLaren's heels
Ferrari are now only three and a half points behind McLaren in the Constructor's Championship.