It was announced this morning that Williams driver Felipe Massa has announced his retirement from Formula One at the end of the current season during a press conference in Monza.
The decision halts several months of speculation about the Brazilian’s future and will bring to an end his 15-year F1 career at this year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. It also creates a vacancy at Williams for 2017 alongside Massa’s current teammate Valtteri Bottas, who is expected to stay for another season with the team.
Massa’s career dates back to his debut with Sauber in 2002 and consists of 11 victories and 41 podiums to date. He came closest to winning the title in 2008 but missed out on the championship by a single point to Lewis Hamilton. The dramatic finale took place at his home race in Sao Paulo and saw him cross the line as champion, only for Hamilton to make up a crucial position in the final corner to take the points necessary to beat Massa to the title.
The 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix also stands as Massa’s last victory to date ahead of a 138-race (and counting) victory drought. He looked the more likely of the two Ferrari drivers to score a victory in 2009 until a horrific accident at the Hungarian Grand Prix — which saw him struck in the head by a spring from Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn GP — forced him to sit out the second half of the year.
He returned to the cockpit in 2010, but as Fernando Alonso’s teammate at Ferrari struggled to shine, and following the 2013 Italian Grand Prix he announced he was leaving Maranello. Williams signed him for 2014 where he rejoined forces with long-time race engineer Rob Smedley and enjoyed a return to form with three podiums during the course of the season.
In a statement to the media this morning, Massa said the following about his decision to retire from Formula One as follows:-
‘I must start by especially thanking my wife and my father, my whole family, my manager Nicolas and all the people who have supported me throughout my career. Thank you to God for giving me the opportunities I have had in life and, above all, for protecting me. A huge thank you as well to everyone I have worked with over the years.
‘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. My career has been more than I ever expected and I am proud of what I have achieved. Finally, it is a great honour to finish my career at such an amazing team as Williams Martini Racing. It will be an emotional day when I finally conclude my Formula One career with my 250th Grand Prix start in Abu Dhabi.’
Also in a statement this morning to the media, Claire Williams, Deputy Team Principal added the following regarding Massa’s decision to retire from the sport as follows:-
‘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. Anyone who knows Felipe knows what a warm and caring person he is, with an infectious personality.
‘He has done a great deal for our sport over the years and I think every team that has had the pleasure of working with him has great affection for him. I know this has not been an easy decision for him, but we all respect his decision to bring his Formula One career to its conclusion at the end of this season.
‘I would like to thank him, on behalf of all the team, for all his hard work over the last three years and we wish him the best of luck for whatever the future holds. He will always be a member of the Williams family and we hope that he will always feel welcome within our team.’
His retirement at the end of the year should bring an end to a career spanning 250 race starts between 2002 and 2016. But all I can say is that Massa has had a brilliant career; full of up and downs and he has given it everything that he could for every team he has drove for on the grid. What I will miss is his passion, commitment and dedication to the sport that he truly loves and his positive attitude to his racing no matter what the odds are.
Even though I expected Massa to retire at the end of the season, it is a shame and he will always be remembered as a great racing driver and a positive role model for future Brazilian racing drivers too.