Rather than nip from the back of the pits straight into the team’s mobile headquarters it is necessary to walk down the street and through the crowd gathered at the paddock gate.
Rob Smedley – Felipe Massa’s engineer – enjoyed that walk today. He was on his own, his leather note case tucked under his arm. Dressed from head to toe in Ferrari red, the Englishman looked like the cat that had got the cream. As well he might.
His man had put Ferrari number 2 on pole. Not just any pole. Pole at Monaco, the most glamorous and arguably the most important of the lot. And the fact that it was unexpected added to Smedley’s sense of well-being as he walked unnoticed through the mob.
Massa, never a fan of racing at Monaco, had been having trouble attacking the track in the way that you need to do in order to set a quick time.
The first corner, Ste Devote, was his bete noir. You need to brake really late going from 165 mph to 70 mph. Get it wrong and there’s a triple-layer barrier coming to meet you as the track tightens on the exit.
Smedley, an ex-Jordan engineer from Lancashire who calls a spade a ruddy shovel, had a word with his boy before the final laps of qualifying.
‘I almost whacked him on the top of his crash helmet with my clip board,’ said Smedley. ‘I said: “Brake late for that corner. Don’t worry, the car will be fine. It’ll get you through it. Go on! You can do it”.’ Steeling himself, Massa did as he was told, as good an indication as any of the trust between the driver and his engineer. It was to be the start of a perfect lap.
Smedley was still smiling by the time he reached the Ferrari office.
‘Bloody hell,’ he mused. ‘I don’t know where that came from, but it was brilliant. Best I’ve seen. We were expecting to be third. But pole? What a result. That’ll make a lot of people take notice of Felipe.’ Starting, it almost goes without saying, with Kimi Raikkonen, second fastest in the other Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton, third quickest and the favourite to take pole.
Something for everyone to think about on that walk back to the paddock.