Felipe Massa retiring from Formula One, again
SAO PAULO (AP) — Felipe Massa is retiring — again.
The Brazilian said the same thing last season, but this time he says he really means it, which makes Sunday his last Formula One race in Brazil.
Unlike famous Brazilian drivers Ayrton Senna, Emerson Fittipaldi and Nelson Piquet, Massa never won the world championship. He got painfully close in 2008, when he won the Brazilian Grand Prix and thought that would give him enough points for the title.
As Massa was preparing to celebrate, Lewis Hamilton rallied on the final lap and scored just enough points to finish one point ahead of Massa in the standings.
“Maybe I am the driver who got the most close to the championship in history,” Massa said Thursday with his final F1 race coming in two weeks when the season ends in Abu Dhabi.
Massa is almost certain to leave with 11 victories, which all came with Ferrari from 2006-08. He hasn’t won since, and his retirement from Williams means that next season Brazil will be without a Formula One driver for the first time since 1969.
The Brazilian Grand Prix is also under threat with reports that it could be dropped when the contract ends after the 2020 season, as Brazil struggles though its worst economic downturn in generations.
“It’s true that we are suffering,” Massa said. “It’s not an easy moment in Brazil, financially. But I really hope Brazil stays for a long time in Formula One.”
Massa was asked to rate his career on a 1-10 scale. He’s in tough company.
He followed in Senna’s wake in Brazil, shared time at Ferrari with Michael Schumacher, and was beaten by Hamilton. Those three are ranked by many as the best of their generations. Hamilton won his fourth world title two weeks ago in Mexico.
“Ten is when you win a championship, or even more than that,” Massa said. “I managed to win many races. I managed to fight for the championship, until maybe the last meters... If it’s a seven, eight or nine, I am very proud for what I’ve achieved.”
A year ago, Massa crashed about two-thirds through the race and failed to finish. What he thought was his final goodbye came in the pit lane, wrapped in a Brazilian flag, tears streaming down his face with hugs from his wife Anna Raffaela and his son Felipinho.
“I am leaving with my head up and my heart still aching,” he said at the time.
He got his second chance two months later when Valtteri Bottas moved to Mercedes, replacing Nico Rosberg, who retired.
Massa agreed to stay at Williams for another year. Next year, he’s widely expected to race in Formula E, the new electric-powered car series.
As he retires for the second time, his main hope in Brazil is to just finish the race. His best finish this season is sixth place, but much of the season he’s been way back and outside the points.
But whatever happens, it’s unlikely to top his first farewell a year ago at the Interlagos track where grew up watching car racing.
“The feeling that I had on the human side after the race last year — really, I never thought I would feel that, or I would have that in my career,” he said. “I think what I had last year was definitely more than enough.”
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