Brazilian veteran Felipe Massa has announced his retirement from Formula 1 after 14 years at the top level of the sport.
The 35-year old made his debut with the Sauber Formula 1 team in 2002 where he scored his first championship points in just his second race. His skills caught the eye of Ferrari, who signed the Brazilian as a test driver before he returned to Sauber for a further two years.
Massa was promoted to the Ferrari Formula 1 team in 2006 to partner seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, where he took two of his 11 career victories on his way to finishing third in the championship.
His most successful season in Formula 1 came two years later, when he battled Lewis Hamilton for the world championship, ultimately losing out to the young Briton by one point despite having won the final race in Brazil.
The way Massa took this heartbreaking defeat with grace and style helped him to become one of the most popular drivers in the paddock, as he acknowledged Hamilton on his win in the post-race press conference, saying that he knows how to win and he knows how to lose.
Massa’s stint at Ferrari lasted until the end of 2013 after 139 starts for the Scuderia, which saw him become the second longest-serving driver behind Schumacher.
He then made the switch to Williams to partner Valtteri Bottas in 2014 and with the new era of engine regulations, helped Williams to finish third in the constructors’ championship by finishing on the podium on three occasions and claiming one pole position.
The following year saw Massa appear on the podium two more times as he helped defend Williams’ third position in the constructors’ championship.
The final race of Massa’s career will be his 250th at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
“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” Massa said at his press conference in Italy.
“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.”
Deputy Team Principal added: “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.”
Image via George Hitchens Photography