Felipe Massa will retire from Formula 1 at the end of the current season after announcing his retirement today in Monza.
The Williams motorhome was absolutely packed, a testament to how popular Massa is, as the Brazilian driver called time on a 14-year career in F1 that saw him win 11 Grands Prix and finish on the podium on 41 occasions. The season ending race in Abu Dhabi in November will be Massa’s 250th Grand Prix and his last race as an F1 driver.
Massa admitted to the crowd in the motorhome that he had taken the decision to retire “several months ago.” And that he hadn’t held talks with any teams, including his current team Williams, about a possible deal to race for them in 2017. He then went on to thank various people, including friends and family for their support over the span of his F1 career. He was also quick to thank the various members of the teams he’d been in.
“A huge thank you as well to everyone I have worked with over the years.” An emotional Massa said. “Every team I have been a part of has been a special experience, and not only in Formula One. I have so many great memories over the years and thank everyone in all the teams I have come through to help me get to where I am today.”
When asked why he was announcing his retirement at the Italian Grand Prix, Massa admitted it was down to his former team mate Michael Schumacher.
“Michael was a big feature on my career,” he said. “I decided to do this here because of him.”
The Italian Grand Prix was where Schumacher made an announcement about his first retirement from Formula 1. Schumacher’s retirement assured a young Massa would stay on at Ferrari for the 2007 season onwards.
Massa began his career with Sauber in 2002 before joining Ferrari four years later in 2006, where he achieved a career-best finish of second in the drivers’ championship in 2008, missing out by a point to Lewis Hamilton. He remained with Ferrari until 2013 when he was replaced by Kimi Raikkonen and announced a move to Williams, where he has been the last three seasons. 2015 has not been a great season for Massa, with the F1 veteran scoring just 39 points, and enduring a torrid run of form too. Collecting just three points in the last eight races. However, he’ll be hoping to score a few more points for Williams from his final eight races this season.
Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams had some parting words for Massa as well. “It has been a pleasure to work with Felipe these past three seasons and we will all be sad to see him leave. Felipe came to us at a time of huge change and his blend of experience, talent and enthusiasm have been an important factor in the turnaround of the team.”
“He will always be a member of the Williams family and we hope that he will always feel welcome within our team.”
Felipe Massa’s Forumla 1 Career.
Felipe Massa began his career with Sauber in 2002, but an error strewn first season filled with incidents and accidents saw him sit out on the side-lines for Sauber in 2003. However, during his off season in 2003, he was picked up as the official test driver for Ferrari. While there Massa was able to perfect his driving skills under drivers like Michael Schumacher. He returned to Sauber in 2004 alongside his testing duties for Ferrari. On his return he was shown to be a more mature driver, and was able to score some good points for the team. He remained at Sauber till 2006 when he replaced an outbound Rubens Barrichello at Ferrari.
Massa was able to take his first F1 win in Turkey in the 2006 season with Ferrari and finished in a respectable place in the championship. He was able to keep his position at the team for the 2007 season thanks to the retirement of Michael Schumacher. In 2007 he partnered alongside Kimi Raikkonen. As soon as it was considered unlikely for Massa to challenge for the world championship he was ordered to play second fiddle to Raikkonen, most notable when he moved out of the way for him to take the lead of his home Grand Prix, so he could win the race. Raikkonen went on to win the championship that year while Massa finished 16 points behind him in 4th place.
In 2008 the roles were reversed and Raikkonen ended up playing second fiddle to Massa’s championship campaign after he won six races. At the season ending race in Brazil Massa won the race, and for a minute looked like he was the 2008 World Champion. However, on the final corner of the final lap of the race Lewis Hamilton was able to pass the stricken Toyota of Timo Glock. Assuring he would be the 2008 world champion by just one point. Massa’s dignified reaction in defeat at his home Grand Prix won him many admirers and a lot of respect.
In 2009 once the season got going Massa was able to score some consistent points finishes. However, all that took a turn for the worse during Qualifying for the Hungarian GP. During Qualifying a spring for the Brawn GP car of Barrichello broke off and flew onto the racing line. Massa, who was already comfortably into the next session of qualifying, was behind when the spring hit his crash helmet. Causing him a massive blow to the head that knocked him out, sending him crashing into the barrier at high speed. He was quickly airlifted to hospital and put in an intensive care unit. Tributes for the Brazilian poured in from around the world from fans and competitors alike. Over the next few days’ positive news trickled out about Massa’s condition and it became apparent he would be okay. He sat out the rest of the season, but went on to make a full recovery. Making his first return to the paddock at the Brazilian Grand Prix for that season, where he waved the chequered flag as Jenson Button came through to become 2009 World Champion.
Massa returned to Ferrari in 2010 alongside new team mate Fernando Alonso. But he struggled to regain the form we’d seen from him before his crash. All year long Alonso had the edge on him in qualifying and the races. In Germany 2010, exactly one year to the day since his Hungaroring crash, Massa was able to leapfrog Alonso and Hamilton into the lead of the Grand Prix. Alonso couldn’t find a way past but a few laps from home the team intervened, with race engineer Rob Smedley delivering the now infamous “Fernando is faster than you,” message to him. Massa complied, sacrificing what would have been his only win of the year.
Two more podium finishes, at Monza and Korea, were small consolation for losing that comeback win. This incident set the tone for his final three years at Ferrari, where he was often seen as the number 2 driver to Alonso. In 2013 After the Italian Grand Prix, where he once again had to make way for Alonso, the team finally confirmed Raikkonen would return to take his place. Massa later announced a switch to Williams for 2014.
Massa’s first season at Williams in 2014 got off to a slow start, with several incidents and accidents that couldn’t be blamed on him, while his team mate Valtteri Bottas was able to outperform him. Despite this, things improved considerably for Massa after the summer break in 2014. He reached the podium for the first time with Williams at Monza. And constantly scored some good results from then on in. The season finale was his most successful race of the year as he gained on eventual winner Hamilton in the closing stages and took second place. 2015 was a similar story for Massa, with Bottas outperforming him. Despite this Massa once again was able to score a podium in Monza, much to his delight.
Throughout his career Felipe Massa has shown an impressive race-craft and a passion for the sport he’s in. Everyone suspected his career could have come to an end following his crash in 2009, but Massa came back against the odds to show us that there was still some fight left in him. While his move to Williams in 2014 rejuvenated not just him. But the team as well. He will be remembered as a great driver, with a lot of passion, and as the 2008 world champion for all of a minute.
“My career has been more than I ever expected and I am proud of what I have achieved.” Massa said in his leaving statement today. “It will be an emotional day when I finally conclude my Formula One career with my 250th Grand Prix start in Abu Dhabi.”
Feature Image Credit: Williams Martini Racing Press Release