Felipe Massa confirms F1 retirement at end of 2016 season

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Felipe Massa has announced that he will retire from Formula 1 at the end of the 2016 season, 14 years after making his debut.

In a press conference at Monza on Thursday ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, Massa announced that he would be calling time on his F1 career at the end of the year.

“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.

“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.”

In the press conference, Massa confirmed that he chose to announce his retirement at the Italian Grand Prix as it was where his mentor, Michael Schumacher, announced his first retirement in 2006. Massa also revealed that he had not spoken to any other teams about an F1 drive for 2017.

Massa made his first F1 start with Sauber in 2002 before joining Ferrari as a test driver for the 2003 season, starting a long-running association with the Italian marque.

The Brazilian returned to Sauber for 2004 and 2005, leading to a drive with Ferrari from 2006 that would see him score 11 grand prix victories.

Massa came within seconds of winning the F1 drivers’ championship in 2008, only for Lewis Hamilton to make a pass at the final corner of the last lap of the season to take the title by a single point.

Massa missed the second half of the 2009 season after being hit on the head by a spring while traveling at high speed during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix, sustaining a severe injury.

2010 saw Massa return to Ferrari alongside Fernando Alonso, but failed to rekindle the form that saw him help the team to back-to-back constructors’ championships in 2007 and 2008.

Massa left Ferrari after eight seasons to join Williams in 2014, with whom he scored his first pole position in over five years at the Austrian Grand Prix. Together with Valtteri Bottas, Massa played a part in the team’s resurgence with five podium finishes, the last coming at the Italian Grand Prix in 2015.

Massa’s announcement is the first wheel set in motion for the 2017 driver market, freeing up a seat with Williams and ruling himself out of contention for any other seats.

Jenson Button, Sergio Perez, Felipe Nasr and Alex Lynn have all been linked with a drive at Williams for next season, while Valtteri Bottas is yet to be confirmed as claiming a seat.

Massa’s next move will also be of interest, with peers such as Mark Webber and Rubens Barrichello going on to find success in series such as the FIA World Endurance Championship and Brazilian stock cars after ending their F1 careers.