Williams head of performance engineering Rob Smedley explains that Felipe Massa was forced to start the Malaysian Grand Prix from the pit lane due to an electronics glitch on his Mercedes-powered FW38.
Lining up 10th on the grid, the Brazilian failed to get off the line for the formation lap, with Williams hurriedly getting his car out of the way before the mechanics could fire it up again.
“It was an electronics issue surrounding the torque map on the car, which then defaulted to turn the car off on the grid,” Smedley said. “We then had to push it in the pit lane and get the car started, which we could do after power-cycling it.”
Massa's woes were not over though, as the future F1 retiree picked up a puncture on his left front tyre four laps into the race. With Williams currently engaged in a close fight with Force India for P4 in the Constructors’ championship, Smedley admits the team potentially missed out on a valuable haul in Sepang.
“It was not ideal,” the performance chief added. “The in-lap with that puncture cost [Felipe] a lot of time and then we had a slow pit stop because of the puncture. From that point, we converted his race into an effective one-stop.
“Both things put him completely out of contention. With the pace in the car, if he had not had that second incident, he probably would have been 30 seconds up the road, which was just on the back end of the points.
“Even starting from the pit lane, the car was good enough to get a point, something like that, which would have made a difference to us.”
Massa’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas managed to ease Williams’ disappointment by bagging fifth place to keep the Grove-based outfit only three points behind Force India with five races to go.