Jeff Gordon

Everything you need to know for Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond

Leave a comment

400 miles. 2 Chase Grid spots. And one, 3/4-mile track with a penchant for having great racing and triggering short tempers.

Put it all together, and a wild Saturday night should be in store at Richmond International Raceway for the grand finale of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular season.

For those already in the post-season, it’s their last chance to earn three more bonus points for the Chase reset with a win.

But for Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson and a host of others, it’s their last chance to enter the hunt for a championship (CLICK HERE to see the clinch scenarios for that bunch).

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s everything you need to know for the Federated Auto Parts 400…

RICHMOND-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Marcos Ambrose (No. 9 DEWALT Ford)
· One top five, two top 10s
· Average finish of 19.5
· Average Running Position of 21.8, 24th-best
· Driver Rating of 70.1, 23rd-best
· 35 Fastest Laps Run, 32nd-most
· 608 Green Flag Passes, 29th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.710 mph, 25th-fastest
· 1,197 Laps in the Top 15 (27.2%), 25th-most
· 174 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), 26th-most

Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Call Before You Dig Ford)
· Two top fives, six top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 16.9
· Average Running Position of 17.1, 18th-best
· Driver Rating of 81.5, 17th-best
· 176 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most
· 893 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 116.067 mph, 14th-fastest
· 3,871 Laps in the Top 15 (50.8%), 15th-most
· 355 Quality Passes, 17th-most

Clint Bowyer (No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota)
· Two wins, three top fives, nine top 10s
· Average finish of 12.0
· Average Running Position of 10.9, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 98.7, fourth-best
· 185 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most
· 857 Green Flag Passes, 15th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 116.279 mph, seventh-fastest
· 5,232 Laps in the Top 15 (76.8%), fifth-most
· 485 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Austin Dillon (No. 3 American Ethanol Chevrolet)
· Average finish of 27.0
· Average Running Position of 25.8, 36th-best
· Driver Rating of 54.9, 39th-best
· 2 Fastest Laps Run, 47th-most
· 33 Green Flag Passes, 51st-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.322 mph, 38th-fastest
· 1 Laps in the Top 15 (.3%), 49th-most
· 0 Quality Passes, 50th-most

Kyle Larson (No. 42 Target Chevrolet)
· Average finish of 16.0
· Average Running Position of 22.1, 26th-best
· Driver Rating of 66.1, 25th-best
· 0 Fastest Laps Run, 51st-most
· 53 Green Flag Passes, 49th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.569 mph, 29th-fastest
· 47 Laps in the Top 15 (11.8%), 45th-most
· 7 Quality Passes, 44th-most

Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Cessna Chevrolet)
· One top five, four top 10s
· Average finish of 22.0
· Average Running Position of 18.5, 20th-best
· Driver Rating of 74.8, 20th-best
· 72 Fastest Laps Run, 19th-most
· 1,017 Green Flag Passes, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.936 mph, 20th-fastest
· 3,042 Laps in the Top 15 (39.9%), 18th-most
· 305 Quality Passes, 18th-most

Paul Menard (No. 27 Sylvania/Menards Chevrolet)
· One top five, one top 10
· Average finish of 24.5
· Average Running Position of 25.1, 35th-best
· Driver Rating of 58.8, 36th-best
· 17 Fastest Laps Run, 38th-most
· 727 Green Flag Passes, 25th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.486 mph, 33rd-fastest
· 685 Laps in the Top 15 (11.4%), 30th-most
· 68 Quality Passes, 32nd-most

Ryan Newman (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet)
· One win, six top fives, 15 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 11.3
· Average Running Position of 11.6, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 92.0, seventh-best
· 122 Fastest Laps Run, 16th-most
· 977 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 116.241 mph, eighth-fastest
· 5,747 Laps in the Top 15 (75.5%), third-most
· 591 Quality Passes, second-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Bass Pros Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet)
· Three wins, 11 top fives, 19 top 10s
· Average finish of 11.1
· Average Running Position of 12.7, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 94.5, sixth-best
· 276 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· 903 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 116.374 mph, fourth-fastest
· 4,756 Laps in the Top 15 (65.9%), seventh-most
· 462 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Brian Vickers (No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota)
· Three top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 24.6
· Average Running Position of 22.1, 25th-best
· Driver Rating of 65.9, 26th-best
· 68 Fastest Laps Run, 20th-most
· 733 Green Flag Passes, 24th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.699 mph, 26th-fastest
· 1,609 Laps in the Top 15 (26.7%), 22nd-most
· 178 Quality Passes, 25th-most

source:

source:

Richmond International Raceway History
· Originally known as the Atlantic Rural Exposition Fairgrounds, Richmond International Raceway held its first race in 1946 as a half-mile dirt track.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was April 19, 1953 won by Lee Petty.
· The spring 1964 race was run on a Tuesday night under temporary lighting.
· The track name changed to Virginia State Fairgrounds in 1967.
· The track surface was changed from dirt to asphalt between races in 1968.
· The track name changed to Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway in 1969.
· The track was re-measured to .542-mile for 1970.
· The track was rebuilt as a three-quarters-mile D-shaped oval following the Feb. 21, 1988 race.
· The first race under permanent lights was Sept. 7, 1991.
· The first season with both races as night races was 1999.

Richmond International Raceway Notebook
· There have been 116 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Richmond International Raceway, one NSCS event from 1953 – 1958 and two races per year since 1959.
· 477 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond; 308 in more than one.
· NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads the series in starts at Richmond with 63. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 43 starts.
· Buck Baker won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Richmond in 1953 with a speed of 48.465 mph.
· 52 drivers have Coors Light poles at Richmond, led by Richard Petty and Bobby Allison with eight each. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with six.
· Seven drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Richmond. Bobby Allison holds the record for most consecutive poles at Richmond with five (1972 – 1974).
· Youngest Richmond pole winner: Brian Vickers (05/15/2004 – 20 years, 6 months, 21 days).
· Oldest Richmond pole winner: Mark Martin (04/28/2012 – 53 years, 3 months, 19 days).
· 49 different drivers have won at Richmond International Raceway, led by Richard Petty with 13. Kyle Busch leads all active drivers with four.
· Petty Enterprises has the most wins at Richmond in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 15; followed by Hendrick Motorsports with 10, Joe Gibbs Racing and Richard Childress Racing with nine each.
· Chevrolet leads the series in wins at Richmond with 36 victories; followed by Ford with 30 wins and Toyota with seven.
· 22 of the 116 (18.9%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Richmond International Raceway have been won from the Coors Light pole. Only three active drivers have been able to accomplish the feat: Kasey Kahne (2005), Jimmie Johnson (2007) and Kyle Busch (2010).
· The pole starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing the more winners than any other starting position at Richmond (22).
· 35 of the 116 (30.1%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Richmond have been won from the front row: 22 from the pole and 13 from second-place.
· 90 of the 116 (77.5%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Richmond International Raceway have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· 13 of the 116 (11.2%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Richmond International Raceway have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Richmond International Raceway was 31st, by Clint Bowyer in the spring of 2008.
· Youngest Richmond winner: Richard Petty (04/23/1961 – 23 years, 9 months, 21 days).
· Oldest Richmond winner: Harry Gant (09/07/1991 – 51 years, 7 months, 28 days).
· Bobby Allison and Richard Petty are tied for thelead in runner-up finishes at Richmond with nine each. Jeff Gordon, tied with Dale Earnhardt, leads all active drivers with seven.
· Richard Petty leads the series in top-five finishes at Richmond with 34.
Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 17; followed by Kyle Busch with 13.
· Richard Petty leads the series in top-10 finishes at Richmond with 41. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 27; followed by Tony Stewart with 19.
· Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Richmond International Raceway with an 8.047.
· Kyle Busch leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Richmond International Raceway with a 7.000.
· Two active drivers have a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series average finish in the top 10 at Richmond: Kyle Busch (7.0) and Denny Hamlin (9.7).

Top 10 Drivers with the Best Regular Season Average Finish During the Chase Era (2004-2014)
Jimmie Johnson – 12.435
Jeff Gordon – 13.067
Matt Kenseth – 13.168
Tony Stewart – 13.556
Carl Edwards – 13.624
Kevin Harvick – 14.249
Kyle Busch – 14.576
Dale Earnhardt Jr – 14.779
Denny Hamlin – 14.816
Clint Bowyer – 15.363
*Four drivers have come from outside the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup cut-off to make the Chase at Richmond in the previous championship format: Jeremy Mayfield in 2004 made up a 55-point deficit; Ryan Newman in 2005 made up a one-point deficit; Kasey Kahne in 2006 made up a 30-point deficit; Brian Vickers in 2009 made up a 20-point deficit.

· Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin are the two drivers that clinched the Wild Card in 2011 to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Keselowski was 11th in points with three wins; Hamlin was12th in points with one win.
· Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon are the two drivers that clinched the Wild Card in 2012 to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Kahne was 11th in points with two wins; Gordon was 12th in points with one win.
· Due to a rare instance in the final race of the regular season that resulted in penalties being issued; a 13th car (Jeff Gordon’s No. 24) was added to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
· There have been two NSCS race resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Richmond International Raceway: spring of 2008 (400/410) and spring of 2013 (400/406).
· Only four of the 116 races at Richmond International Raceway have been shortened due to weather conditions: spring of 1962, spring of 1977, spring of 1982 and spring of 2003.
· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Richmond International Raceway six times; most recently fall of 2008.
· Brian Vickers (05/15/2004) posted his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Richmond.
· Tony Stewart (09/11/1999) and Kasey Kahne (05/14/2005) posted their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins at Richmond.
· Eight drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series have posted consecutive wins at Richmond International Raceway. Richard Petty leads the series in consecutive wins at Richmond after posting seven consecutive wins from the fall of 1970 – 1973. Jimmie Johnson (2007 sweep) is the only active driver with consecutive wins at Richmond.
· All of the 15 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners at Richmond International Raceway participated in at least one or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart won at Richmond in their second appearance.
· Joe Nemechek competed at Richmond International Raceway 18 times before winning in 2003; the longest span of any the 15 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners.
· Joe Nemechek (18), Kevin Harvick (11) and Jimmie Johnson (10) all made 10 or more attempts before their first win at Richmond International Raceway.
· Greg Biffle leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Richmond without visiting Victory Lane at 24.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Richmond International Raceway was the (09/12/1998) race won by Jeff Burton with a MOV of 0.051 second.
· Two female drivers have competed at Richmond in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series:
source:
· Danica Patrick posted her career-best finish (sixth) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this past weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

NASCAR in Virginia
· There have been 284 NASCAR Sprint Cup races among nine tracks in Virginia.
source:
· Martinsville Speedway held the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Virginia in 1949; Richmond International Raceway was the second track to host the NSCS in 1953.
· 171 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Virginia.
· 19 drivers from Virginia have won at least one race in NASCAR’s three national series; 11 have won in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
· 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Wendell Scott and 2012 NASCAR Hall of Fame driver/owner Glen Wood are the only two drivers from the state of Virginia to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
source:

Franchitti praises INDYCAR’s direction with ’18 renders, urges series not to rush Halo

ST PETERSBURG, FL - MARCH 29:  Former driver Dario Franchitti of Scotland stands on pit wall prior to qualifying for the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg at the Streets of St. Petersburg on March 29, 2014 in St Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

BIRMINGHAM, UK – Dario Franchitti has praised INDYCAR’s plans to revamp the bodykits used in the Verizon IndyCar Series from 2018, calling the series’ direction “fabulous”.

Franchitti raced in IndyCar between 1997 and 2013, claiming four championships overall, three with Chip Ganassi Racing (first with Andretti Autosport in 2007) before being forced to call time on his career after sustaining injuries in a crash at Houston. The Scotsman remains heavily involved with the series as an advisor to the Ganassi team.

Following INDYCAR’s release of the first car renders for 2018, Franchitti was quick to praise the series’ officials for moving away from the “ugly” aerokits currently being used.

“The drawing of the rending is just that right now, but the direction they’re going in is fabulous,” Franchitti told NBC Sports at Autosport International.

“I talked to Jay Frye quite a bit about what I felt was wrong with the current body kit.

“And I believe that all the drivers sung from the same song sheet of wanting more underbody downforce, get rid of all this top side nonsense. Make the cars look a bit better again, because the car has got quite ugly.

“I have to say that his team have listened to everybody. They know the direction they want to go in now. I think it’s going to be good.”

Part of INDYCAR’s five-year plan discussed in Detroit included further discussions regarding the introduction of cockpit protection, with the Halo device tested in Formula 1 on the table.

“I think everybody is looking at [Halo], but it has to be done in the right way,” Franchitti said.

“We’re here in the UK, it makes you think of Dan and Justin. We lost both of those guys to head injuries. Would they have survived with a Halo? Who knows.

“But if it’s going to be done, it’s got to be done right. And there are so many unintended consequences when you do that.

“You don’t want to rush into it, but you want to introduce it as quickly as possible.”

Franchitti also previewed the 2017 IndyCar season, set to start in St. Petersburg on March 12, and is intrigued to see how the fight between defending champion team Penske and Honda-returnee Ganassi plays out, as well as how a number of drivers fare with new teams.

“The driver market a wee bit obviously with Sato to Andretti, Newgarden to Penske, the Foyt guys have changed around,” Franchitti said.

“Bourdais has gone to Dale Coyne. Dale Coyne seems to have really strengthened his team.

“And then us with the Ganassi team going back to Honda. There are some big changes there. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

“That’s going to be the interesting fact because last year the two big teams had Chevy. Now it’s split. It’s going to be fascinating how it all plays out.

“We’ve tested the car. I can’t say much about it, but it will be an interesting season.”

Timeline: Tracking six weeks that flipped the 2017 F1 driver market

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 27:  Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Williams Martini Racing Williams FW38 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo and Felipe Massa of Brazil driving the (19) Williams Martini Racing Williams FW38 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo on track  during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 27, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

The waiting is finally over. After six or so weeks of speculation, rumors and theories about who might replace Nico Rosberg at Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas was finally unveiled by the team as its second Formula 1 driver for 2017 on Monday.

Bottas’ arrival from Williams has been expected since about the middle of December, making the news hardly surprising. Nevertheless, it is still highly significant.

With Pascal Wehrlein joining Sauber and Felipe Massa due to return at Williams, the driver market is – for now – complete. We still wait for news on Manor’s future after it entered administration earlier this month.

Can’t remember all that has happened since Nico dropped the mic and walked away from F1? Here’s a timeline of events to refresh your memory.

November 27 – Nico Rosberg clinches his maiden F1 world title in Abu Dhabi, finishing second in the race to win the championship by five points. Felipe Massa makes what was planned to be his final F1 start.

December 2 – Rosberg announces his immediate retirement from F1 in a press conference ahead of the FIA gala in Vienna, Austria.

December 3 – Mercedes non-executive director Niki Lauda says he has received calls from half the F1 grid enquiring about Rosberg’s seat.

December 4 – Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel dismisses the suggestion he could leave Ferrari and take Rosberg’s seat for 2017. Lewis Hamilton claims he’s not chasing number one status at Mercedes following Rosberg’s departure.

December 6 – Mercedes F1 chief Toto Wolff admits the team has to consider Fernando Alonso for the vacant seat, but hints a deal for 2017 would be unlikely.

December 8 – Mercedes posts a tongue-in-cheek advert in Autosport magazine regarding its driver vacancy for 2017.

December 9 – Former manager and long-term confidante of Alonso, Flavio Briatore, says that the Spaniard will not take Rosberg’s seat.

December 11 – Hamilton and Wolff enjoy an “amazing” meeting regarding plans for the 2017 season. Hamilton says Mercedes will have “the strongest partnership” to defend its titles. BBC Sport reports that Valtteri Bottas is Mercedes’ prime target and has already tabled an offer for the Finn.

December 13 – Alonso tells the entire McLaren team at its base in England that he remains committed to the project, ending speculation about a possible move.

December 14 – Williams’ Pat Symonds says that keeping Bottas is “crucial” to the team’s future success.

December 15 – Mercedes confirms that it will make no announcement regarding Rosberg’s replacement until January 3 at the earliest. Claire Williams says that Williams was open to letting Bottas leave, relying it could find a suitable replacement.

December 16 – Red Bull F1 chief Christian Horner says he would not allow junior driver Carlos Sainz Jr. to take Rosberg’s seat.

December 20 – Reports suggest that Massa has agreed to come out of retirement and return to Williams for 2017, paving the way for Bottas to leave the team.

December 30 – Massa posts on Instagram that he is back “training hard” in America.

January 3 – The earliest date for an announcement from Mercedes passes.

January 4 – Mercedes confirms it will launch its 2017 F1 car, the W08, at Silverstone on February 23.

January 6 – Manor – the team Wehrlein raced for last year – enters administration, raising doubts over the team’s future and place on the 2017 grid.

January 15 – Claire Williams says she expects to make an announcement about Bottas’ future within a week.

January 16 – Pascal Wehrlein is officially announced by Sauber; photos of Bottas in Mercedes team gear leak online; Williams confirms Massa will return; finally, Bottas is announced officially at Mercedes.

Valtteri Bottas joins Mercedes F1 for 2017 season as Rosberg’s replacement

Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Mexico City, Mexico.
Sunday 30 October 2016.
Valtteri Bottas, Williams Martini Racing.
Photo: Glenn Dunbar/Williams
ref: Digital Image _X4I0171
© Williams Martini Racing
Leave a comment

Valtteri Bottas has officially joined Mercedes AMG Petronas ahead of the 2017 Formula 1 season, replacing World Champion Nico Rosberg.

The long-expected announced was made by Mercedes on Monday, putting an end to six weeks of speculation in the wake of Rosberg’s decision to walk away from F1.

It followed two other announcements made the same morning, with Pascal Wehrlein going to Sauber and, more importantly for Mercedes’ case, Williams Martini Racing’s release of Bottas to Mercedes and confirmation Felipe Massa would come back for one more year.

Mercedes still managed to have fun with the now worst-kept secret in F1, building up the “suspense” on Twitter:

And then Mercedes made it official, via a live video from its factory in Brackley.

Bottas joins Mercedes for his fifth season in F1, having raced with Williams since 2013 and recorded a best finish of fourth in the drivers’ championship in 2014.

The Finn led Williams to third place in the constructors’ championship in 2014 and 2015, scoring nine podium finishes during his time with the team.

Mercedes had been due to field an unchanged line-up of Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton in 2017, only for Rosberg to announce his immediate retirement from racing five days after winning his maiden F1 title in Abu Dhabi.

The news sent the F1 driver market into a late flux, with Bottas appearing towards the top of Mercedes’ shortlist alongside its in-house junior driver Pascal Wehrlein.

Mercedes decided against promoting Wehrlein due to his inexperience, having only completed one season in F1, leaving Bottas as its prime target.

Bottas had re-signed with Williams for 2017, rejecting a move to Renault, and had been set to partner 18-year-old Lance Stroll during his rookie campaign.

Mercedes’ first approach for Bottas included Wehrlein as part of the deal, only for Williams to reject the German on account of his inexperience and the need to have at least one driver over the age of 25, as per a requirement for title sponsor Martini.

Williams found a solution by luring Felipe Massa out of retirement, the Brazilian having raced for the British team since 2014.

Massa said an emotional farewell to F1 in Abu Dhabi, but is now set to return for at least one more season to help the team develop its new car, the FW40, during a period of regulation change.

With Massa agreeing to return for 2017, Williams gave the green light for Bottas to join Mercedes, ending the six-week waiting game that had played out.

Having missed out on seats at Mercedes and Williams, Wehrlein is now due to race for Sauber in 2017, replacing Felipe Nasr at the Swiss team.

The only remaining seats on the F1 grid for 2017 are at Manor, which is yet to confirm either of its drivers amid ongoing takeover talks with American-Mexican investor Tavo Hellmund.

2017 Formula 1 driver line-ups

Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton/Valtteri Bottas
Red Bull: Daniel Ricciardo/Max Verstappen
Ferrari: Sebastian Vettel/Kimi Raikkonen
Force India: Sergio Perez/Esteban Ocon
Williams: Felipe Massa*/Lance Stroll
McLaren: Fernando Alonso/Stoffel Vandoorne
Toro Rosso: Carlos Sainz Jr./Daniil Kvyat
Haas: Romain Grosjean/Kevin Magnussen
Sauber: Marcus Ericsson/Pascal Wehrlein
Manor: TBA/TBA

Felipe Massa backtracks on F1 retirement, confirms Williams return for ’17

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 13:  Felipe Massa of Brazil and Williams stands with a Brazilian flag for his last home Grand Prix with his son Felipinho on the drivers parade before the Formula One Grand Prix of Brazil at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 13, 2016 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Less than six weeks after making what was set to be his final start in Formula 1, Felipe Massa has confirmed his return to the grid for 2017 with Williams, on a one-year deal.

The news was announced by the team on Monday, completing its line-up for the 2017 campaign ahead of the season-opener in Australia on March 26.

“Firstly, I am very happy to have an opportunity to return to Williams. I always intended to race somewhere in 2017, but Williams is a team close to my heart and I have respect for everything it is trying to achieve,” Massa said. “Valtteri has a great opportunity, given the turn of events over the winter, and I wish him all the best at Mercedes.

“In turn, when I was offered the chance to help Williams with their 2017 Formula One campaign, it felt like the right thing to do. I certainly have not lost any of my enthusiasm for racing and I’m extremely motivated to be coming back to drive the FW40. The support from my fans over the last few weeks has been a huge boost and I’m grateful for that. I also look forward to working with Lance; I’ve known him for many years and seen his talent develop during that time, so I look forward to seeing what we can achieve together.”

Claire Williams, deputy team principal, added the experience Massa will bring should help the team this season.

“I’m delighted that Felipe has agreed to come out of retirement to be a part of our 2017 campaign. With Valtteri having a unique opportunity to join the current Constructors’ Champions, we have been working hard to ensure that an agreement could be made with Mercedes to give Valtteri this fantastic opportunity,” she said.

“Valtteri has been part of the Williams family since 2010 and in that time has proved a huge talent, securing nine podium finishes. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him on behalf of the whole team, and wish him a successful season as he joins Mercedes.

“Felipe has always been a much-loved member of the Williams family, and having the opportunity to work with him again is something we all look forward to. He was always going to race somewhere in 2017, as he has not lost that competitive spirit, and it was important that we had a strong replacement in order for us to let Valtteri go. Felipe re-joining us provides stability, experience and talent to help lead us forward. He is a great asset for us.

Massa, 35, announced in September that he would be retiring from F1 racing at the end of the 2016 season, making way for 18-year-old Lance Stroll to take his seat alongside Valtteri Bottas at Williams.

Massa made what would have been his final start in Abu Dhabi, having said an emotional farewell to his home fans in Brazil two weeks earlier in some of the most powerful scenes of the 2016 season.

However, following Nico Rosberg’s shock decision to retire from F1 just five days after winning his maiden world title, Mercedes identified Bottas as its primary target to replace the German.

Williams was offered a discount on power units and the services of Mercedes junior Pascal Wehrlein in return for releasing Bottas from his contract for 2017, but rejected the proposal.

Williams stressed it wanted a racer more experienced that Wehrlein – an F1 sophomore for the coming season – to aid the development of its new car through the change in technical regulations for 2017. The team also requires at least one driver over the age of 25 to satisfy sponsor Martini, an alcohol brand.

Williams instead turned to Massa and put together a deal to bring the Brazilian out of retirement for 2017 that was accepted in the lead up to the holiday season.

Following Jenson Button’s decision to step back from an F1 seat for 2017, Massa will be the third-most experienced driver on the grid for the forthcoming season, with Australia due to be his 251st race start.

Of the active drivers racing in F1, only Fernando Alonso (278) and Kimi Raikkonen (251) have made more appearances than Massa.