Ferrari has given a fitting tribute to its outgoing driver Felipe Massa, whose ‘extraordinary services’ to the team will be coming to an end at the conclusion of the 2013 season.
The Brazilian will make way for his former Ferrari teammate Kimi Räikkönen, whose appointment to the Italian team was confirmed overnight.
Massa will leave Ferrari as the outfit’s second-most long-serving driver of all time. Having made a switch to the team in 2006 after impressive stints with Sauber, the Brazilian has racked up eleven race wins and fifteen pole positions, and came within a whisker of winning the 2008 Drivers’ Championship title.
Massa suffered an horrific accident at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix (pictured right) and was sidelined for the remainder of the season, and Ferrari kept their faith by returning him to the cockpit at the start of the following season.
Some largely indifferent form since has meant that the 32-year-old has had to play second fiddle to teammate Fernando Alonso, but his departure won’t diminish his reputation or popularity within the team, according to team principal Stefano Domenicali.
“I wish to thank Felipe with all my heart and also on behalf of all our fans around the world, for the extraordinary job he has done for the team over so many years,” Domenicali said.
“Felipe has always behaved like a real team player. Together we have lived through some great times and also a few dramatic moments, which have helped to cement a truly unique relationship on both a professional and personal level.
“He will always be part of our family and we wish him all the very best for the future.”
“All the luck for the next few years!” Massa’s teammate Fernando Alonso added on his Twitter feed.
“You will be a strong opponent in any team! And we still have seven GPs to have some fun!”
Massa and his management will be frantically working on a deal to keep him on the grid next year.
Räikkönen, meanwhile, returns to the team on a two-year deal until the end of the 2015 season, one year prior to the end-date of Fernando Alonso’s current agreement with the team.