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How much does pressure affect F1 teams in a World Championship battle?

Although teams may try to take things one race at a time, Rob Smedley says the pressure of being in an F1 World Championship battle impacts their decision-making abilities.

Having been part of a World Championship battle in the past, F1 Director of Data Systems, Rob Smedley, believes teams can be affected by pressure when it comes to things like car setup and race strategy. Smedley served as Race Engineer to Felipe Massa when the Brazilian battled it out with Lewis Hamilton for the 2008 World Championship. Massa missed out on the title by just one point after Hamilton famously passed Toyota's Timo Glock in the final corners of the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix. With the fight between Hamilton and Max Verstappen still undecided heading into the final five races of the 2021 season, Smedley says it's difficult for teams not to let pressure affect their thinking given the prize that is at stake. "I think it does," Smedley said on the Beyond the Grid podcast, when asked if pressure can affect a team's judgment. "I think the job of the most senior people in the team is to minimise that effect as much as possible, but I don't think you can ever, even if it's just in your subconscious, you can't get rid of the fact of the size of the prize on the table. "It's not just a race win or something like that, it's a Formula 1 World Championship, probably the most difficult sporting trophy to win on the planet, [and] definitely one of the most hotly contested."

"You simply can't help it"

Smedley added that while teams may try to focus on one race at time, they simply can't help but let what's at stake affect their thinking. "It's the old adage, you [have] just got to take one race at a time, you shouldn't be looking beyond that particular event that you're in, but you can't help it, you just simply cannot help it," Smedley added. "And as those races get less and less, you get down to three races to go, the penultimate race, the final race, that is so difficult not to let that be part of your thinking. "So I think that it does affect decisions. You do sometimes make a different decision when you're in a World Championship dogfight than you would if it was just that particular weekend that you're gambling on. "As I said, it's the job of the senior management to minimise that as much as possible."

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