While much of the focus at this weekend’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be directed to the battle for championship honours between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, two of Formula 1’s stalwarts will be hanging up the keys on Sunday night.
The Yas Marina Circuit had something of an ‘end of term’ feel to it on Thursday, as McLaren-Honda’s Jenson Button and Williams’ Felipe Massa both prepare to start the last Grand Prix of their careers.
While the tears flowed freely barely two weeks ago when he crashed out of his home race in Brazil, Massa expects this weekend to be another emotional affair.
The diminutive Brazilian, who narrowly missed out on winning the 2008 World Championship crown, will bring down the curtain on a 15-year Formula 1 career that has yielded 11 wins, 41 podiums and 16 pole positions to-date.
“It’s going to be another emotional one,” he admitted. “You try not think about it too much when you’re in the car, you just try to do as good a job as you can.
“I really hope the final, and 250th race of my Formula One career, can be a fantastic one. We will of course have a big party! Hopefully we can celebrate with a great result.”
While Button has a rather expedient contract with McLaren that will see him serve as a one-year ‘sabbatical’ as development and reserve driver for the team in 2017, the Englishman will treat Sunday’s race as his last.
The 36-year-old steps aside at the end of the season to make way for Belgian hotshot Stoffel Vandoorne. While he has a contract in his pocket that allows for a potential race return in 2018, the veteran driver doubts he will do so.
“I go into this weekend thinking it’s going to be my last race,” he said.
“At this moment in time I don’t want to be racing in Formula 1 past this race, that’s the whole idea. I think of this as my last race, and hopefully everybody else does as well.”
“It is true that I have a contract for 2018, but at this moment I’m not going to be racing in 2018.
“The whole idea of the contract was that, in three months’ time, when I’ve eaten myself stupid, and I’m thinking of things to do in the future, I may feel that I need Formula 1 back in my life.
“At this moment in time that isn’t the case. This is my last race, and that’s the way I’m thinking about it, but who knows? That could change in six months, eight months, one year…” he teased.
Having made his Formula 1 debut in 2000 with Williams, Button has tallied up 304 Grand Prix starts, 15 wins, 50 podiums and 8 pole positions to-date.
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